Actions

Work Header

Himerus and Eros

Chapter Text

Eridan: Watch the new girl.

Your name is Eridan Ampora, and this is actually going a lot better than you expected.

You hate to admit it, but wow, Aradia has a fantastic voice. You lean back against one of the amps and let her have her moment in front of the mic. It’s only a sound check, but she’s singing like the place is sold out. You’re almost concerned that she’s going to upstage you once the actual show starts.

“Sounds great, AA,” Sollux calls from the tech booth, holding out a thumbs up. She smiles and steps back, grabbing a water bottle as Sollux indicates that Gamzee should play a few bass lines to test the volume. He nods his shaggy head and begins playing, but your eyes are trained on the new girl, studying her.

You’d been wary at the audition, even though Sollux vouched for her. Especially because Sollux vouched for her, actually. But she’s amazing, and even you can’t deny that. Not to mention, she’s pretty cute, with that long, wavy auburn hair. But she belongs to Sollux and there is no way you would touch that with a ten-foot pole.

“Jealous?” a sarcastic voice coos in your ear. You jump slightly and turn to find Vriska smirking at you.

“Of her? No way, why should I be?” You say in a confident tone. “I’m still the front man, a’ course. I’m the one everyone’s comin’ to see, not some new chick.”

“Ha! As if. They’re here to see meeeeeeee!” She grins in her usual vaguely disturbing manner, her lip ring glinting in the light.

You respond with an exaggerated eye roll. “Yeah right, Vris. Keep tellin’ yourself that, if it makes you feel better.”

She doesn’t react to your weak attempt at a comeback, and instead continues to smirk in a rather infuriating manner. “Try not to scare this one off, okay?” After a mockingly sympathetic pat on the shoulder, she sashays off, hips swinging, and you think for the five-hundredth time about how you’d kick her to the curb if she wasn’t such a beast on that guitar.

When Gamzee finishes his sound check, Kanaya is instructed to play around with her keyboard for a bit while Sollux continues to fiddle with the technical shit. You’ve already tested your mic and guitar, so you wander backstage to grab some water. Upon entering the tiny green room, you are greeted by the usual bickering.

“As co-manager, I have the same amount of say as you do!” Terezi insists.

Karkat makes a frustrated noise. “Holy fuck, how many times do I have to say this before it gets through your thick skull? I am the manager, you are the assistant manager. There is no “co” anything, so knock it off with that bullshit.”

She scoffs and rolls her eyes, clearly not buying it for a second. “Whatever you say, Mister Grumpypants.”

“And I told you to stop calling me that!”

“You think I’m going to stop just because you asked me?” she laughs, shaking her head and taking a step towards him. “I’m just teasing you! Honestly, you need to stop being such a grouchy tightass all the time.”

He growls and takes a forceful step forward as well. “Maybe I wouldn’t be such a so-called “grouchy tightass” if I didn’t have to deal with the mind-numbing nonsense that is constantly spewing from your mouth!”

They’re practically nose-to-nose at this point, and it’s probably best to not interrupt. You edge around them to the case of water bottles that is supplied for the band at every show, right next to the slightly battered couch where Tavros is sitting. He’s watching the managers duke it out, a tired and baffled look on his face, and you can’t help but chuckle.

“Don’t even try to understand them. It’s not worth your time,” you advise the roadie and grab a water bottle, while they continue to argue behind you.

He looks at you and shakes his head. “Trust me, understanding them is, something I have never done, and trying is something I gave up on, quite some time ago,” he answers in his usual halting manner.

Tavros is a nice kid, you guess, but he’s pretty boring to talk to, and there’s really nothing more to be said. With the mission accomplished, you think its best to leave the squawking pair alone, so you head back out to the stage where it seems that everyone has finished their individual instrument checks, and Sollux needs everyone to play together to check the balance.

You pull your guitar strap on and take your place at the front of the stage, in front of your microphone. It’s a bit disconcerting to have Aradia standing next to you for the first time, with her own guitar and her own microphone, and you sort of wish that everyone had gone with your plan of leaving you as the sole lead singer, and not having to get a replacement female lead as well.

At Sollux’s request, you randomly choose a song from the set list and launch into it, filling the house with the notes that you proudly penned. The only thing better than this is the pure adrenaline of a screaming crowd of teenagers that will be joining you later this evening.

Alternia is on the smaller side, as venues go, but it’s definitely your favorite, and you sort of enjoy the more intimate setting. It’s not much more than a black box, standing room only, but it almost always gets filled from wall to wall, which makes the crowd seem that much better. There’s a small bar in the back of the room, usually covered by a grumpy black man who only goes by “Slick”, and through the wide double doors to the side of it is the hallway where the merch table is set up. Nepeta has appointed herself as the faithful merch girl, and she usually manages it by herself, selling t-shirts, posters, and CDs. She almost always comes in to watch your set, hanging out in the shut-off VIP balcony and cheering everyone on.

Sollux makes a cut off motion, and everybody stops playing. “EQ, could you let up on the drums a little?” he calls out in an exasperated tone. This was something that he had to repeat at nearly every single show, and yet Equius’ drumming constantly remained too heavy.

“Sorry,” he replies, adjusting his sunglasses. “I guess I got carried away,” he adds, one hand reaching up to grasp the white towel that perpetually hung around his shoulders.

You have to stop yourself from rolling your eyes at this answer, which is almost exactly the same every single time. Sollux seems to have a similar reaction, though it’s hard to read his face behind the stage lights. Through the open doors in the back, you can make out Nepeta at her merch table, who waves exaggeratedly at Equius and gives him a reassuring thumbs-up.

“And ED, stop trying to out-sing AA,” Sollux adds, his voice laced with distaste.

Sputtering, you open your mouth to respond, but Aradia puts a hand on your shoulder. “Don’t worry about him, he’s just trying to be a protective boyfriend,” she says reassuringly. You let your angry words drain away, but the scowl remains etched on your face through the rest of the sound check.

Despite that, however, you can’t help but think of how well Aradia fits into the band, and how perhaps you had been wrong to complain about her joining. For the first time in a few weeks, you’re actually really excited about a show. It feels great.

You almost convince yourself not to think about who’s missing.

 

Be Past Eridan.

Past Eridan: Win over the girl of your dreams.

It’s the perfect plan. Simple, foolproof. You wrote a song for her, a sweet little acoustic number, and you’re about to perform it in front of the entire crowd and reveal your true feelings for her. You won’t actually say anything, of course, and risk embarrassment in front of your fans, but you know that the lyrics and the emotions in your voice will be all she needs to hear.

The band is halfway through the set list, and it is now about the time when it becomes socially acceptable to transition into a few slower acoustic songs, so you shoo everybody else off the stage as Tavros comes out to hand you an acoustic guitar and a stool.

“I’ve got a new piece for ya tonight,” you tell the crowd, who responds with a cheer. As you play the opening string of notes, you remind yourself again how perfect this song is. Subtle, quiet, rather than a dramatic declaration of love. The chorus comes, and as you softly croon, “I’m falling head over heels for you,” into the microphone, you look to the wings offstage and your eyes meet hers.

Your heart leaps into your throat, and you maintain eye contact as you continue into the next verse. It vaguely occurs to you that the audience may wonder what you’re staring at, but you don’t really care. You have eyes only for her. Her eyes are locked on you as well, but the expression on her face is unreadable. “I’ve been dancing on the tops of buildings…at the top of my lungs, I’m singing you a song,” you sing, and there is no denying that you are singing to her. “Don’t you leave me alone...” She eventually breaks away, and you return your gaze to the back of the room, wondering if she understands.

The sound of your voice filling the room mixed with the gentle notes coaxed from the strings of your guitar is empowering, and you feel as if nothing can possibly go wrong. This is different, so much different than everything else you’ve written, but the crowd is watching you with definite approval, and you just know that you’ve gotten it right this time.

“I’m falling more in love with every single word I withhold,” and you’re kind of pleading now. “I’m falling more in love with every single word you say.”

The rest of the song flows smoothly, and as you let the last few notes float into the air, you can’t help but smile. You look up once again as your fellow band mates re-enter the stage, and you try to catch her eye. She doesn’t look at you, and you wonder if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

You transition into the next song, and although you’re giving as close to your usual level of performance as possible, your head is not really in it. What did she think? Did it work? Did you screw it up? Would she reciprocate?

The show from that point on becomes kind of a blur, and suddenly it’s over, to your relief. You exit the stage, laying down your guitar in its proper position on your way, and as soon as you are backstage, Feferi pulls you aside.

Yes. This is it, the moment you’ve been waiting for. She has to feel the same, she just has to. You smile at her, even though your heart threatens to beat out of your chest. She smiles back, but the smile does not reach her eyes, and this causes you to lower your own.

“That was a beautiful song,” she says, and it’s just what you wanted to hear, except that you can hear the “but” coming. “But I don’t feel that way about you, Eridan.”

You freeze. You eyes stare into hers, unblinking. You can see the sadness in her ocean blue eyes, and you can see the truth as well. Your mouth opens and you try to speak, but the words do not come. “…Oh,” is all you can manage.

“I’m sorry,” she adds, and she looks about as heartbroken as you feel, and even though she just crushed your dreams you cannot stand to see her looking like that.

“No, it’s okay,” you reply, even though it is not okay, it is so far from okay, it is a thousand miles from okay.

She places a hand on your arm, and you can feel the breath catch in your throat. “I don’t want to lose our friendship,” she tells you, and you nod because there is no other way to respond.

“Of course,” you hear yourself saying, and her smile seems a bit brighter.

The girl of your dreams looks at you for a moment longer, and it seems that she doesn’t really know what else to say. She stands up on her tippy toes and plants a soft kiss on your cheek, and the hand on your arm travels down to squeeze your own hand. And just like that she is gone, disappearing down the hallway, and you watch the long dark curls that cascade down her back until she vanishes around the corner, and you are alone.

You are still frozen in place, with your arms pinned to your sides and a lump in your throat, and you try to pick up the pieces of your heart that have shattered to the floor below you, but there are just too many and you don’t even know where to begin.

 

Eridan: Get over it.

A week passes, a jumbled haze of noise and confusion, and you try to get over it but you can’t. Feferi tries to act like everything is okay, like nothing happened and you two are just regular best friends, but you avoid her like the plague--which is hard enough under normal circumstances, but even worse when you fucking share an apartment. You can see that it’s hurting her, but when you’re around her it’s hard to breathe.

You’re at a different venue this time, where the signs proudly proclaim that Arsenic Aquarium is playing tonight, and you’d desperately begged Karkat to cancel the show but he told you to shut up and stop being ridiculous.

“Are you sure it’s too late to cancel?” you ask him now.

He gives you a withering look. “Eridan, the sound check is in ten minutes. I think we passed “too fucking late to cancel” about 50 miles ago, right back there with “your manager gives zero fucks about your love life.” I remember, I waved at it as we drove by.”

You sigh and give him the most pitiful look you can muster. “I fuckin’ hate everythin’.”

Karkat seems to sympathize with that, at least. Then he sighs, shakes his head. “Look man, I know how you feel,” he says in an unusually reassuring tone.

“No you don’t,” you protest bitterly, resting your chin in your hands. The backstage area is mercifully empty save for the two of you, and you are suddenly glad that everyone involved with this goddamn band is a hyperactive weirdo, all running around and doing their own things, too busy to sit on the crappy couch and interrupt your feelings jam.

Karkat rolls his eyes. “Okay, so maybe I’ve never been in the same exact position as you. But I have had my fair share of shit when it comes to romance, and I know how crappy it feels. And yeah, it really sucks now, but you’re gonna move on and be fine.”

“But I don’t wanna move on,” you sigh, looking at him. “I want her to feel the same about me.”

“Yes, and I would like to win the fucking lottery so I could have enough money to buy my own penthouse and get away from the perpetual stench of pot in my cramped residence shared with the three biggest twats I know save you, but that’s not going to happen, is it?” he snaps back, and although you could do without the attitude, you know he’s right. Still, it’s not exactly what you want to hear.

“So what do I do?” you ask in a small voice, burying your face in your hands.

“Well for one thing, stop acting so damn awkward around her,” Karkat says. “It’s only making things worse. I know it seems impossible, but you have to try to act like everything is normal. And eventually, with time, it will be.”

You let out a grunt of frustration and shake your head, mumbling, “Can’t.”

“Okay then, fine. Continue to be a dumbass and dig your hole even deeper,” he growls, standing up. He pauses, and you’re not looking at him, but you can tell from the silence that he feels bad. “Just…try. Okay?” He claps a hand on your shoulder and takes off, probably to do some all-important managerial bullshit, AKA argue with Terezi.

You drag your hands down your face and push up off the couch, resolved to do as Karkat says and at least give it a shot. But as you head down the hallway in the direction of the stage, you happen to pass by Feferi, and the “hello” that you intend to give her gets stuck in your throat as you avoid eye contact.

Well. Off to a great start.

If the sound check is any indication, tonight’s show is going to be a spectacular flop. You flubbed several lines in the span of less than one full song, and your hand slipped on the strings at least once, if not twice. You can practically feel Vriska’s eyes burning into the back of your head, and the first time she gets the chance she grabs you by the front of the shirt and pulls your face down so that it’s level with hers.

“I swear to god, you had better not fuck up this show for everyone else with your goddamn moping,” she snarls. You hold up two hands and lean back, eyes wide. “Pull it together, Ampora, or so help me I will castrate you.”

“Jesus fuck, Vris, lay off a’ me,” you reply as you pull back, brushing out the wrinkles she put in your shirt. Normally you would keep going, initiating a series of hostile back-and-forths, but your heart really isn’t into it tonight, so you turn your back on her and walk away, leaving her bemused and bothered in your wake.

The set list has been selected with the utmost caution. The most neutral songs possible have been chosen, with minimal duets and a larger focus than usual on Fef, but there have to be at least a few of your signature shared songs, and none of them have a very “neutral” theme to them.

You and Fef wrote them together, and you were always pretty damn proud of them. For the most part, you’d focus on the notes, and she’d focus on the lyrics, though you would occasionally switch it up. Strangely enough, most of them were pretty uncharacteristic of her—there was a lot of anger and resentment, stories of bitter break-ups and warring couples. You’d often question her about these, and she’d reassure you that they had nothing to do with either of your lives, and that they were just good material for songwriting.

As you enter the stage, to the delight of an enthusiastically screaming crowd, you launch into one of these songs, one of the band’s first singles. Carry Me Home was always one of your favorites, even though it was difficult for you to play the role of the boy rejecting the girl when all you ever wanted was for her to be yours.

“I’m just a boy with a hole in my heart,” you sing, and everything seems to take on a new poetic meaning tonight. She joins you on the line, “and I swear the world turns if it all falls apart,” and you just can’t look at her, you can’t.

“Carry me home tonight,” she pleads, and you respond with, “You had your chance, but baby, it’s too late now,” and god if this isn’t the most ironic and awful thing you’ve ever experienced.

“Tonight let’s play with our hearts,” you’re practically spitting the lines out into the microphone, and it’s the strangest mixture of self-pity and depression and bitterness, and you can’t even tell if you’re angry or upset or both. All you know is that together, you and Fef used to dominate this stage, voices blending together perfectly, an electric chemistry running between your duets.

And now…now it was lost, all of it, and it was palpable, even the audience could sense it. They continued to shout and sing along, but their excitement was lesser than usual, and this was almost definitely a reflection of the train wreck happening on stage.

This continues for the rest of the night, and with each awful fuck-up of a song it only gets worse. Your individual songs are shit, and Feferi’s solos are a bit off as well. Vriska is positively fuming at your incompetence, and even Kanaya seems annoyed.

Finally, finally, after what seems like ages, the shit show is over, and you book it off that stage. Vriska shoulders you into the wall as she pushes past you, too pissed to even bother with yelling. Kanaya shoots you a look, and Equius seems irritated as well. Only Gamzee seems oblivious to it all, offering you a lazy smile and a shrug.

Karkat grabs you by the sleeve and pulls you over to him, a murderous scowl on his face. “What the fuck was that?” he hisses. “Try to act normal, I said. How fucking hard was that? Are you trying to drive the band into the ground? That was the most embarrassing excuse for a show I have ever seen.”

“What do you even care?” you mutter in reply, shaking him off and sulking down the hallway. He’s sputtering behind you, but you ignore him and keep going, wanting nothing but to be left alone and get the fuck out of there.

But of course, then comes the coup de grace: Feferi herself corners you, and there’s no running away from this one. She’s got her arms crossed over her chest, and while the look on her face is significantly more sympathetic than the others, she doesn’t look pleased.

“This can’t stay like this,” she tells you, and of course she’s right. But you’re bitter, and you want her to feel guilty, and what’s the point anymore?

“Maybe you should’a thought a’ that,” you say, and the look that crosses her face makes you immediately want to take that statement back.

“Are you blaming me for this?” she protests, placing her hands on her hips. Looks like all sympathy has gone out the window. “I have been nothing but nice and mature about this whole situation. I’ve been trying to act normal, but you’re the one who couldn’t pull it together for the span of one stupid show!”

You can’t even look at her. “You...Y-you have no idea w-what this feels like,” and here comes the goddamn stutter, as if this isn’t embarrassing enough as it is.

“Maybe not, but I know what it feels like to lose a best friend, and it freaking sucks!” she argues, and you are entirely uncomfortable with how close she is standing to you right now, given the circumstances. “Stop feeling so sorry for yourself, or you’re going to tear this damn band apart!”

It’s like she’s pouring salt on your wounds. You manage to turn your head and meet her gaze for just a moment and practically beg, “Just l-leave me alone.”

Feferi throws her hands up. “What was I supposed to do, Eridan? Did you want me to lie to you?”

“You didn’t h-have to say anythin’ at all!” you snap back, raising your voice.

“Oh, and lead you on? That would have been better?” she asks, her voice rising in volume as well.

“You could’a left everythin’ the w-way it was! It w-was better than this!”

“Like I could just ignore your feelings? I don’t think so!”

“It w-would’a been easy! Just regular best friends like w-we always were, I could’a dealt w-with that!”

Her face softens slightly, and you realize that she is on the verge of tears as well. “And you don’t think we could ever go back to that?”

You pause and look down. Try to imagine a future in which the two of you could just be best friends again. But…you shake your head. “No,” you murmur.

She’s quiet now as well, and she looks away. “Well then, maybe it’s best if I just leave.”

You look at her, confused. “W...what…?”

“The band. I think it’s best if I leave the band.”

The words hit you hard. Definitely not what you expected. She loved this band, and…well fuck, it wouldn’t be right without her. “W-wait,” you start to say, but she shakes her head.

“No, you’re right. I need a break, anyway. I don’t want to see this band crash and burn, and it’s obviously not going to go well if we have any more shows like tonight, so it’s okay. I’ll go.” She looks sad, but she also looks sure, as if she’s been thinking about this.

You’re not sure what to say, not sure if this is actually a good thing or the worst thing you’ve ever heard. You want to say, what about us, you want to know if she's going to move out, you want to know what this all means. The two of you stand there for a moment, and you’re searching for the words, but she’s made up her mind and with a small, sad smile, she walks away. For the second time in a week, you watch her go and wish more than anything that you hadn’t written that fucking song.

Chapter Text

Vriska: Participate in shitty band meeting.

Your name is Vriska Serket, and there are probably about eight million things you would rather be doing right now. The small, cramped living room reeks of marijuana—you don’t understand how the other guys put up with it, though you still think it’s kinda weird that Karkat and Sollux ended up living with Gamzee and Tavros in the first place.

There aren’t enough damn chairs, and the couch barely fits the four people squeezed onto it, so you’re sprawled out on the floor, and you’ve hoarded all spare pillows so as to attain some measure of comfort. Tavros looks pretty damn uncomfortable from his piece of floor, but when he gathers up the courage to ask you for a pillow, you just laugh. What is the kid doing at this meeting, anyway? Sure he lives here, but does he realize that he’s not actually in the band? Whatever, best not to waste your thoughts on that loser.

“Okay guys, so this is obviously an incredibly important band meeting, and I would really appreciate it if we could contain the douchebaggery to a minimum so that we don’t descend into shithive maggots territory, got it?” Karkat announces in his most official voice.

You make a valiant effort to stop your eyes from rolling. Of course this is going to deteriorate into madness, how could it not? You’re surrounded by idiots.

“I call this meeting to order!” Terezi adds, banging a model gavel on the arm of Karkat’s chair where she is perched. Okay, now your eyes are rolling for sure.

Karkat bares his teeth and glares at her. “I swear to god, I will burn that thing,” he growls. She just sticks her tongue out at him and holds it up above his reach.

“Anyway, as I was saying…” he continues, still scowling, as he turns back to the group of misfits scattered about his living room. “You all know by now that Feferi has flown the coup, and we’re left with only one shithead of a singer.” He stares pointedly at Eridan, clearly laying the blame for Feferi’s disappearance on him.

“Hey, what’re you lookin’ at me for? I never asked her to leave,” Eridan replies, holding his hands up in defense.

“Yeah, but she left as a direct result of your idiocy, so it’s still pretty much your fault,” you tell him with a smirk.

“Fuck off Vris,” he snarls, shooting you the finger. You catch it and blow him a kiss in return. He ignores you, continuing with, “Besides, I don’t really see what the big deal is. Most normal bands only have one singer, anyway. We’ll be just fine without her.”

“Maybe,” Kanaya cuts in, “but the prospect of continuing without the defining factor that made this band unique seems foolish. A large portion of our original music consists of duets; do you propose that we simply discard them?”

Eridan shrugs. “We can write more,” he suggests, crossing his arms over his chest.

“That would require changing the entire moronic image, dumping the album and the EP like so much trash, and basically starting this whole bullshit endeavor from scratch,” Karkat argues. “God knows why, but this band has an actual following now, a place in this godforsaken city. People will miss Feferi, but replacing her with some other broad would be much more accepted by the screaming fangirls and fanboys than completely changing the dynamic of this pathetic excuse for a band.”

The lead singer humphs and say nothing, though he turns away and refuses to look at the manager. You snort at how childish he’s acting, and he graces you with a dirty glance.

“KK has a good point,” Sollux acknowledges. “I actually know someone who would be a really good replacement.”

“Who asked you, Captor?” Eridan snaps, glaring across the room at the techie. “You’re not even a member of this band.”

Sollux scowls and glares right back. “Fuck off, dickprince. Not all of us can be the high and mighty front man, but the fact remains that you guys would be lost without my help, and I do enough shit for this band that I deserve a vote.”

“It’s also a fact that you’re much more easily replaceable than I am,” Eridan hisses, and holy crap, the tension in the room could be cut with a knife. You watch in amusement, hoping for this to continue.

Unfortunately, as Sollux opens his mouth to spit back a harsh retaliation, Gamzee reaches over from his armchair and lays a hand on Sollux’s arm, patting it gently and effectively ruining the fun.

“Let’s get our chill on up in here, bro,” he says in his usual slow, mellow way.

Sollux practically growls, but he shuts his mouth and looks away. You have to hold back a sigh of disappointment.

“I have a question,” Nepeta cuts in, and you look up to where she’s curled up on the couch next to Equius. “What about all our merch? One of the shirts has Feferi on it, and she’s on all the posters.”

“Well we can’t fucking sell them now then, can we?” Karkat barks grumpily.

“Okay, okay, I was just asking. No need to be so grumpy, Karkitty!” she replies in a playful tone, probably in some sickeningly cute attempt to cheer him up. You stop yourself from snickering, as you know it will do the exact opposite.

“Seriously? No need to be grumpy? This train wreck of a band, which I have invested far too much of my time into, has now gone past derailment. The train has blasted out of orbit, ass-deep in space, where it is currently being molested by gargantuan space rocks, and I seem to be the only passenger who is putting in any sort of fucking effort to bring this screeching hunk of shitty metal back down to this planet. So yeah, I think I have a goddamn right to be grumpy, and I don’t think I need your fucking permission or approval.”

Nepeta frowns, and the look on her face is truly pitiful as she nervously tugs on the earflap of her kitty hat. “Okay, sorry…”

Terezi bonks Karkat on the head with her gavel. “That was uncalled for, Karkat. You should apologize.”

Karkat rolls his eyes dramatically, but he complies. “Fine, whatever. Sorry, Nepeta.”

Nepeta seems placated by this less-than-sincere apology, but you can tell that Equius is giving him a death stare from behind those stupid shades. It’s kind of weird how close they are for step-siblings, but even you have to admit that it’s sort of cute how protective they are of each other.

“We’ll produce new merchandise to better suit us,” the bodybuilder says as he turns to look at Nepeta again. “I offer my assistance, if you need it.”

She smiles and thanks him, resting her head on his shoulder. From the other side of the couch, Kanaya adds, “I could easily design a new shirt.”

“Great, and now that we’ve got this hugely important issue sorted out, can we get back to the actual point of this meeting? I’ve got other irons in the fire to tend to, and I’d rather not sit here all night with you losers,” you say. “So, what’s the verdict? Replacement, or not?”

“I still think it’s better if we go on without another girl,” Eridan reiterates stubbornly. “I could carry this band on my own, easy.” You scoff at how damn cocky he is. Everyone knows you’re the best part of the band, anyway.

Kanaya raises an eyebrow. “Poor choice of wording aside,” she responds, “I don’t think anybody doubts your talent. Rather, the female lead makes for a fascinating addition, and helps to distinguish this band from others. I am in favor of holding auditions for a replacement.”

“Yes, but I think we would be stronger if we stuck with this core group, rather than suffering the foolishness of a lesser newcomer,” Equius argues.

“You can’t automatically assume that the replacement will suck, doucheface,” Karkat retaliates. “That’s why we should pull our heads out of our asses and look around for a few suitable singers and audition them, and pick the least mediocre one.”

Terezi hits the arm of the chair and calls out, “Objection! The least mediocre? That sounds less than promising, we’re probably better off just sticking with the grump over there.”

Karkat makes a face and looks up at her. “Okay, now you are literally just disagreeing with me for shits and giggles.”

“Not everything’s about you, Karkat,” she answers indignantly.

“That’s enough, children,” you say, but they’re still going at it, and now Terezi is hitting him with her gavel again, and he is trying valiantly to rip it out of her hands, much to her delight.

“What about a motherfucking compromise?” Gamzee suggests, and everyone stops and looks at him.

“A what?” Karkat asks, as though he’s never heard of the word in his life.

“You know, man. We do a show with just our good bro Eridan, and then if its not meant to be, then we’ll up and find a new motherfucking lady,” he says, nodding slowly as he speaks.

“I, uh, think that this is a thing, that we should probably do,” Tavros agrees, and Gamzee reaches down to ruffle his stupid fauxhawk hair appreciatively.

Terezi shrugs. “I guess that sounds okay?”

Karkat looks grumpy as ever, but he sighs and gives in. “Fine, whatever.”

Eridan looks pleased with his semi-victory, and the last thing you want to do is encourage him, but you really just want this meeting to end. “Fine by me,” you say.

Terezi puts it to a vote, and everybody, begrudgingly or not, votes in favor. You notice Sollux scowling in displeasure and wonder what the guy’s problem is, but you don’t waste too many brain cells on it.

“Great, so, it’s settled. Can we go now?” you ask.

Karkat glares, and you know the answer before he says it. “Shut your trap, Serket, I’m not finished here.”

“Of course you’re not,” you mutter under your breath, and you tune him out as you twirl a blue strand of hair around your finger and wonder how bad the next show will be.

 

Vriska: Mentally prepare for next show.

The green room is too damn crowded, and everyone is bickering. Normally you would be totally on top of that shit and leading the charge, but you are in no fucking mood tonight, so you abscond to the side of the stage, where you watch the end of the preceding band’s set. You’ve got a laundry list of criticisms, but they’re actually pretty decent, so you put it aside and let them have their moment.

The sudden presence of another body has appeared, and you turn to see Kanaya watching them as well. Without taking her eyes off of the other band, she says, “On a scale of one to tossing himself dramatically off a cliff into sharp rocks in a stormy sea, how resentful and despondent do you think Eridan will be this evening?”

You snicker and turn back to see Wayward Renegade finish their final song. “I’m not sure his dramatics can fit onto such a limited scale,” you respond with a wry smile. She chuckles in agreement, and that’s really all there is to say on the matter.

WR exits the stage, and you offer them a nod as they pass you. Tavros and the other roadies head onto the stage to exchange their shit for yours, and you sigh impatiently, all too eager to get this over with.

As the crew arranges everything, you grab your guitar and go out to set it up. There is a projection screen in front of the stage so that all the audience can see is your feet, but someone recognizes your trademark red chuck taylors and lets out a scream, which is quickly amplified. You grin in appreciation of the attention, and the excitement of a show is starting to come back to you.

The rest of the band trickles in as well, also adjusting their instruments, save for Eridan who strolls in about 15 seconds before the screen goes up. Dramatic bastard.

As the audience erupts into noise, you begin one of your personal favorites, and you’ve never seen such an intense look on Eridan’s face as he snarls into the microphone. Wow, talk about bitter. Even you can’t deny that he’s selling it well, but you hate the way he’s practically making love to the mic stand right now. You’ve got the guitar part covered, so he swings his guitar around his back and grabs the stand with both hands, leaning into it, and one of the girls in the front actually swoons. Gross.

In some ways, it’s one of the best live performances of this song, and at the same time you kind of want to gag a little at how much he is overreacting to this entire situation. The song hardly even applies, for god’s sake, but he chose it himself. He chose most of the setlist, to your displeasure.

From there you transition right into Don’t Let Your Enemies Become Friends, and you’re not sure if you should thank Feferi or smack her for inspiring such emotion in Eridan. The anger and hurt in his voice seeps into the words, and you would almost be impressed if the circumstances weren’t so absurd.

He does, admittedly, sound good. The song suits his voice pretty well, and he’s playing to the crowd, even though you can tell that behind the act he has locked himself up in his own miserable little world.

If you were the caring type, you might feel really bad when he sang, “I should have known, I’m better off on the floor alone,” but you’re not, so you make a face instead. Laaaaaaaame.

With no Feferi, you’re stuck singing the background vocals, which are luckily only a few oohs and aahs in this song. Of course they’re manageable, and of course you rock those oohs as much as oohs can be rocked, but you don’t like being tied down in front of your mic stand. You much prefer to roam around the stage, building up the crowd with your antics.

Upon finishing, there is a slight break in the music, in which Eridan makes his usual greetings to the crowd. Karkat had insisted that he make an official announcement about Feferi, even though whispers and rumors had spread like wildfire since their last disastrous show, even before Sollux had updated the website to tell of her absence.

“As you, uh, may or may not know, our other lead singer Feferi has unfortunately had to part ways w-with us,” he says, and he tries to keep his voice neutral, but his normally smooth stage voice is marred ever-so-slightly by the stutter that slips in on the last w, and oh boy you really need to learn how to control your eyes so that they don’t roll out of your head. He takes a deep breath and swallows, composing himself as he finishes. “Things are a bit rocky for us right now, but we’d like to thank you for bearin’ with us an’ supportin’ us anyway.”

His last remark is answered with a round of cheers, which continues into the start of the next song, and oh boy is this one a doozy.

“Self-loathing is quaint, you told me, showing restraint,” Eridan sings, and you swear, he’s the most dramatic person you’ve ever met.

It really does fit well, you’ll give him that much. And it’s actually not a bad song; under any other circumstances you might even like it. But if this isn’t the most pathetic display you’ve ever seen, you don’t know what is. He continues his theatrics, and you don’t understand why the crowd seems to be enjoying this so much.

While he sings the chorus, wailing something about changing and rum, you make eye contact with Kanaya. The two of you like to jam together, but this isn’t really a “let’s rock out” kinda song, so you settle for a conversation with your eyes. She’s got a similarly skeptical reaction, although hers seems to be a lot more sympathetic than yours.

“You were the mermaid for me…till one day, you found your feet…leaving me in this god-awful bottle, a model of heartache and grief.”

You watch him for the last chorus, and okay, fine, the guy can sing.

The song receives an overly enthusiastic reaction, and you can’t believe they ate it up like that. Suckers. Another glance at Eridan, and the look on his face would break your heart, if you had one.

Next up is a cover, but it is strangely appropriate to his life, and as much as you enjoy the line, “Fate is an elegant, cold-hearted whore,” you would really like to take him by the shoulders and shake him while screaming that everything is not all about him and his idiotic drama and that this show was not intended to be his pity party.

The next two songs are fairly unremarkable, but you have absolutely had it up to here with his shit, and for the entirety of each of them, you refuse to even look in his direction. Instead, you pump yourself up on the music, pushing aside your annoyance and letting the chords and the crowd fill you with adrenaline.

You resume your usual prowling of the stage, stopping next to Kanaya so you can tease each other over her keyboard, much to the apparent amusement of your fans. Unable to stay still for too long, you wander over to Gamzee and lean against his shoulder as you play a guitar riff; it takes him a solid 20 seconds to even notice you, cause he is just so lost in his own world. When that gets boring, you proceed to put a foot up on one of Equius’ drums and toss him a smirk. His lips quirk up in the hint of a smile as you move your head to the beat he’s providing.

As you move back to your usual spot on the stage, you look offstage and notice Karkat and Terezi watching, so you toss them a wink. Terezi grins and winks back; Karkat just scowls.

You even interact with the crowd, making eye contact where you can, tossing a few grins at the especially cute ones, feeding off the energy they’re sending you.

But you pointedly avoid Eridan, because you’re pretty sure if you looked up the definition of the word, “fun”, he’d be listed as an antonym.

The faster-paced songs come to an end, and then there’s a fairly emotional cover. You resent him and his choices, and you resent the fact that you ever allowed this bullshit to take place tonight.

This is displayed nicely by the slow cover that comes up next, and damn, there are far too many covers tonight. It makes sense, considering that most of your original music is comprised of duets, but it’s still kind of irritating, even though the crowd doesn’t seem to mind. Of course, he had to go and pick a cover that has a female part, meaning that your mouth is currently pressed to the microphone where Feferi’s should be. It’s a small part, but you’re still not really into it, and you seriously hope everyone decides to go for a replacement, cause you’re not gonna get roped into this shit every show.

He glances over at you at the end of the song, when you’re trading lines back and forth, and there’s something in his eyes that makes you feel uncomfortable, so you look away, focusing on the crowd instead.

“Keeping On Without You” makes you want to puke, it’s so unnecessarily mopey. But thankfully, he ends the show with a semi-decent rendition of Mr. Brightside. Of course, it’s nowhere near as good as the original, and it’s practically blasphemous that this idiot thought he could pull it off, but the crowd seems to approve.

And then it’s over, thank god, and you book it the fuck off that stage, so done with this shit. There is NO way you are letting the band stay like this, not if every concert is gonna be an Eridan Ampora mopeathon. No, you NEED to get another female lead in here, for the sake of everyone’s sanity.

You toss the doucheface a nasty look as you exit the stage, but stop when you notice the look on his face. “Eridan…are you crying?”

“A’course I’m not,” he sniffs, but his eyes are definitely wet.

You stare at him for a long moment, incredulous. Then, “Holy fuck, Ampora. You really are hopeless, aren’t you?” you scoff in a disgusted tone, brushing past him into the back room, where Karkat has instructed everyone to report after the show for an emergency meeting. He follows you miserably, and you want to punch him when he makes that little whimpering noise as he hastily brushes at his eyes. Fucking hopeless.

 

Eridan: Get stuck with all the shit.

Basically…everyone sucks. You’re standing outside, on the street, with a shit ton of equipment and a mostly empty van, and only one stupid asshole helping you load it. You’re supposed to have help, but somehow everyone fuckin’ vanished after that damn meeting.

Yeah, the meeting in which they said, “Sorry Eridan, great show, but we need a girl,” and no one gave two fucks about your input.

“Fuckin’ assholes,” you mutter as you grab one end of a particularly heavy amp.

“Are you seriously still whining over there? Please, spare me your bullshit and just shut up already,” Sollux says from the other side of the amp as the two of you carry it into the van.

You still can’t believe they left you alone with this shithead. There’s a rotation, goddamnit, but tonight everyone had found some sort of excuse to disappear. Even Equius, who’s strong enough that he could’ve done it all on his own, and who is usually the main loader, considering it’s his freakin’ van. But he and everyone else is nowhere to be found, so you glare over the top of the amp at the only dickwad left.

“Fuck off, I wasn’t talkin’ to you,” you answer while you put the amp down and head off to grab a guitar case.

“So who are you talking to?” he snorts. “Yourself? Right, cause that’s normal.” You want nothing more than to punch that smug look off his damn face.

“It’s none of your business who I’m talkin’ to, whether it’s myself or not,” you snap back with an annoyed huff.

He fixes you with a look and answers, “It is my business if I can hear it, and it’s annoying me, which it is. So knock it off.” You both grab the remaining amp and lift it together, and he immediately begins to criticize. “No, turn this way, dumbass.”

You tell him that you know how to carry a fuckin’ amp and that, believe it or not, you’ve done this before. You then set it down and busy yourself with taking another piece, and without looking at him you add, “I don’t have to listen to you, Sol.”

Sollux lets out a short laugh. “Oh, that’s right. I forgot. You’re Eridan Ampora, and you don’t have to listen to anyone. My apologies, sir,” he sneers, giving a mock bow.

You briefly consider just giving him a good clock to the nose right then and there, but Kar would tear you a new one, and you don’t really need to make things worse than they already are. Instead, you take a deep breath and try to be the bigger person. “Fuck off, Sol.” Yeah, that’s about as big as you can get right now.

He’s laughing at you again, and the sound of his laughter is making your skin crawl. “What’s got your panties in a twist, anyway? Oh wait, that’s right. You’re not good enough to support the band on your own, and everybody listened to my suggestion over yours,” and holy crap you’re seriously ready to punch him, no matter what sort of shitass reaction Karkat or anyone else will have.

“It’s too bad FF isn’t here to defend you. Oh wait…you fucked that up, too.”

The piece of Equius’ drum set that you were carrying falls to the floor of the van, and you stiffly turn to face him, fists clenched.

“Oops, it seems I’ve hit a nerve.” He’s got the most disgusting smirk you’ve ever seen on his face, and that’s it. You lunge at him, grabbing him by the front of the shirt and slamming his back hard against the wall of the van, knocking the air out of his lungs. He stares at you with wide eyes, clearly not expecting a physical response like that.

“Don’t you fuckin’ bring Fef up again, do you understand me?” you hiss, tightening your grip on his shirt.

He loses the look of surprise and picks his head up from the wall, his face dangerously close to yours, his freaky-ass eyes narrowing behind his glasses. “What are you gonna do about it?”

You stare at him for a long moment, trying to think of an appropriate threat, wishing you’d had one prepared. “I’ll kick your ass,” you say finally, but it’s weak, and you both know it.

Sollux laughs and pushes you off of him. “Good luck with that.” You watch him, fists clenched, as he smooths out his shirt and moves aside the last piece of equipment.

“Maybe if you weren’t such an insufferable little shit, you wouldn’t end up pushing away the best friend you’ve ever had,” he bites as he straightens up.

Your eyes widen, and you blink at him, unable to think of a prompt response. He turns around to leave, but there’s no way you’re letting him get the last word, so as he starts to walk away, you call after him, “You don’t know shit about me, Captor.” He doesn’t even acknowledge you as he continues his exit, and you are getting really damn tired of watching people walk away from you.

Chapter Text

Be Present Sollux.

Present Sollux: Celebrate a successful show.

You’re not sure whose idea it was, but someone suggests a celebratory dinner at Max Brenner’s after the show. It’s close enough that everyone walks over in one big chattering pack, still high off of the adrenaline of a great performance.

It was probably one of the best shows in a long time. Aradia killed it, of course, and the crowd took to her immediately. Eridan kicked his sorry ass out of that slump and performed pretty well, and their voices blended together in an oddly intriguing sort of way. As soon as the show ended, though, he went back to moping, and right now he’s hanging at the back of the group, his hands shoved in the pockets of his stupid black pea coat and his chin buried in his dumb scarf, not talking to anyone. You don’t pay him any mind as you slip your hand into Aradia’s and give it a squeeze.

The restaurant is crowded as ever, but someone had the good sense to call ahead and squeeze in a reservation. You take a seat between AA and KK at a long table set for 11 and begin perusing the menu. The good atmosphere is infectious, and everyone seems to be in high spirits, even the grumpy manager.

You casually throw an arm over the back of Aradia’s chair and debate with Karkat whether it’s wiser to go for the huge, delicious burger, or to get something smaller and save room for the amazing deserts. To your right, Aradia is on the receiving end of Nepeta’s praise, while Equius just sort of nods a lot.

“Really though, you were so good! The crowd loved you!” Nepeta gushes, leaning forward over the table in her excitement.

Next to NP, EQ clears his throat. “You were…better than expected.” You glance at him and…oh jeez, is he sweating again? He subtly dabs at his forehead, and you casually shift half an inch closer to Aradia.

AA laughs lightly and smiles. “Thank you,” she says modestly. “I was really nervous. I mean, I’ve performed before, but this was different. Plus, Feferi left some pretty big shoes to fill.”

At the mention of FF, your eyes automatically flicker to Eridan, who is sitting at the end of the table next to Kanaya. He is unusually quiet, with his chin resting in his hand, and his gaze hovers somewhere around Aradia and the empty seat next to her, where Feferi should be.

“Right, Sollux?”

“Hm, what?” you ask, turning back to look at Nepeta, who is smiling expectantly at you. Whoops.

She chuckles. “I said, Aradia’s big solo number was the best part of the whole concert!”

“Eh. She was alright,” you shrug, looking fondly at her. She smirks and lightly elbows you in the side, and you can hear Nepeta “awww” from across the table.

Aradia holds your gaze for a long moment, smiling, and you give her shoulder a quick squeeze, but the moment is interrupted by an outburst across the table.

“Oh my GOD, Terezi, how could you POSSIBLY think that Skyward Sword is better than Twilight Princess?!?!?!?!” Vriska exclaims, looking scandalized.

Next to her, Terezi looks equally shocked. “Uh, because it is? And just about every game critic in the world agrees with me!”

“Lies and slander. Twilight Princess was ten thousand times more badass. You’ve gotta be blind if you can’t see that! Skyward Sword was too light and airy. Booooooooring!”

TZ cackles and shakes her head. “You’re nuts. The gameplay in Skyward Sword was so much better.”

She tries to continue, but is cut off when Vriska adds, “Plus, Midna is SO much cooler than Fi.”

This makes Terezi pause, and she eventually nods. “Okay, I’ll give you that. But you’re still a total dumbass if you think Twilight Princess is better overall.”

Vriska scoffs indignantly at this insult, and snaps back with a harsh retort, leading to an increase in the intensity of their argument. Next to VK, Kanaya is desperately trying to intervene.

“I would really rather not be forced to endure this ceaseless bickering all evening,” she says. The two quarreling girls don’t even look at her.

A frazzled-looking waitress comes to take everybody’s order, and the pair bicker right through it, barely glancing up to toss their order at the poor girl. You decide, fuck it, why not have the best of both worlds, and go for the burger and the promise of mouth-watering desert later.

On your other side, Karkat has given up trying to talk to Gamzee, who is wrapped up in his own world with Tavros. KK looks at Vriska and Terezi for a moment, then casually interjects, “You’re both wrong, as usual. Ocarina of Time is, and always will be, the best. That’s really all there is to say on the matter.” He then looks at you and makes a comment about the prick that owns Alternia, leaving both girls scrambling in their outrage.

The two of you fall into a conversation about another band that frequents the city scene, Turntech Testified. Karkat calls them your rival band, and often tries to outdo them, but no one else actually takes it seriously. Their manager, John, always just laughs at Karkat and tells him to stop being so silly.

“Those douchebags think they look so cool, with their asinine shades. You know who wears sunglasses inside? Fucking tools, that’s who.”

You chuckle. “Yeah, okay. Fair enough. But you have to admit, their music is pretty good.”

“They’re decent, I guess. But they definitely don’t deserve as much hype as they get. Our ragtag bunch of assholes has much better material than the trite, recycled garbage that they fish out of the musical dumpster,” Karkat protests stubbornly.

"Are you feeling threatened by them or something?" you ask in a snarky tone, raising an eyebrow.

He laughs derisively. “Ha! Threatened? By that hopeless aggregation of ass lickers? As if.”

You shake your head at him, chuckling lightly. "Stop taking everything so damn seriously, KK. Not everything has to be a competition.”

Karkat lights up at this, fixing you with an incredulous stare before launching into a tiresome rant that you must’ve heard a million times about how of course it’s a competition, who will have the bigger fanbase and the sold-out shows, who will get the better timeslot or get booked at the cooler venues, all the while throwing in as many creative insults as possible, including but not limited to “slimy shit-guzzlers” and something about “crotch stains.”

“Whatever KK,” you reply simply when he finally finishes. “I just don’t see why this band is the only one in particular that gets you so agitated.”

He doesn’t look at you, and just grumbles something under his breath about how he doesn’t have to explain his “perfectly valid” opinions to an idiotic fucker like you. He then proceeds to return his attention to Gamzee, which you take as a sign that the conversation is over.

To your right, Aradia is still talking to Nepeta and Equius, telling some story about doing theater in high school, while across from you, Vriska and Terezi have moved their argument along to other aspects of pop culture. Kanaya seems to have given up on intervening, and is conversing quietly with Eridan. You can’t hear what they’re saying over the dull roar of the restaurant and the chattering around you, but whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be the most cheerful of conversations.

Curious, you lean forward just slightly and attempt to focus on their voices. This plan is quickly shot as the waitress arrives with everyone’s food, and you internally shrug as your plate is placed in front of you, cause it’s not like it mattered anyway.

The buzz of conversation suddenly dies down in favor of enthusiastic chewing and the occasional comments made through mouthfuls of delicious food. You happily dig into the most perfect burger on the planet, very pleased with your wise decision.

Terezi reaches across the table to snag one of your fries, but your hands are too full of the world’s most delicious burger to swat her away. You settle for shooting her a warning glare, which she easily brushes off as she proceeds to launch a scoop of mashed potatoes at Vriska’s face. But of course, Vriska sees it coming and dodges, leaving poor Kanaya in the line of fire.

She acts calm and collected as she wipes off her cheek, but you’re not surprised in the least a few minutes later when she “accidentally” knocks Vriska’s drink right into Terezi’s lap.

“My sincerest apologies, Miss Pyrope,” she says, holding back a smile. VK is laughing her head off, while TZ exits to the bathroom, grumbling something about “justice.”

“Gosh, this food is amazing!” Aradia remarks, mouth half-full of pasta.

“Just wait till desert!” Nepeta tells her excitedly. “This place is known for its chocolate!”

Apparently everybody has a similar mindset, because dinner goes by relatively quickly, and soon everyone is fighting over the desert menus.

“I don’t even need to look,” Karkat declares, handing it over to you. He’s apparently very firm in his decision to get the same thing he ordered last time. You, on the other hand, spend what seems like forever flipping through the menu and drooling over the amazing choices, eventually being torn between two. When the waitress comes and you’re still debating, Terezi rolls her eyes and picks for you.

“I’m a big boy, TZ. I can order for myself,” you assure her. She barks a laugh and swats you with the menu.

“We would’ve been here all night, mister big boy. You’re welcome.”

The wait is especially torturous, but it’s quickly filled when VK and TZ use their straws and the straw wrappers to shoot spitballs—first at each other, and soon at everyone in the table. It causes quite the hubbub, until a grumpy old woman from a neighboring table yells at everyone to keep it down.

After that, Nepeta and Aradia laughingly make the most disgusting concoction of every extra scrap of food they can find on the table and mix it all together in a glass. They dare everyone to take a sip, and the only person who willingly does so is Vriska. She does a very good job of holding back her gag, but when everyone turns their attention to Equius, who seems to have minimal issues with it, she spits it out into a napkin and takes several long gulps of water.

The deserts start coming fairly quickly after that, waiters distributing the goods until everyone but Aradia has a plate in front of them.

And suddenly there are far more waiters than necessary coming over to your table, and in the middle of the plate that is placed in front of Aradia is a burning candle, and the waiters are singing Happy Birthday, and she looks more baffled than you’ve ever seen her. Everyone else at the table laughs and plays along, even though everyone is well aware that it is not, in fact, her birthday, but the slightly-more-mischievous-than-usual smirk on Terezi’s face gives it away.

“They don’t have a “congratulations for a spectacular first concert” song, so I figured that’d have to do instead,” Terezi explains when the waiters leave, snickering and looking incredibly pleased with herself. Aradia shakes her head in bewilderment and laughs, shooting a smile to everyone around the table, ending with you. Her amber eyes are glowing in the light of the still-burning candle, and you plant a quick kiss on her cheek.

“Go on, blow out the candle,” you tell her.

She giggles and turns to face it, still glowing, and she’s beautiful.

Your eyes scan the table, and everyone is smiling, watching her, enjoying the moment. Everyone except the boy at the end of the table, the boy with the stupid black and purple hair and the stupid hipster glasses and the stupid blue scarf who looks absolutely pitiful, and something in your stomach shifts uncomfortably. You look back at your girlfriend, and you just can’t shake the feeling as she blows the candle out.

 

 

Eridan: Stop moping.

You can’t help it. You are a deeply emotional person, okay?

No, but really. You’re curled up on your couch with your beloved acoustic guitar in your lap, a pencil and pad taking the vacant space next to you, and several crumpled pieces of paper scattered around you. The apartment feels bare and cold, even though you’ve got the heat turned up.

It’s been weeks since Fef moved out, but it still feels empty in here.

The guitar in your hands is begging to be played, and you despondently pluck a few strings, but it doesn’t do much good. Your muse just won’t come tonight.

You come to the annoying realization that your feet are freezing, so you set the guitar down and leave the comfort of the couch to pad down the hallway, making a conscious effort to avoid looking at the other bedroom door. Your room is cold, even colder than the rest of the apartment, and you take a moment to give the old radiator a good kick, which does nothing but hurt your numb foot.

Grumbling, you shuffle across your room, suddenly grateful for the wall-to-wall carpeting that you’d always complained about. The top drawer of the dresser is pulled open with entirely too much force, and you nearly pull the damn thing out, which would have resulted in a disastrous mess. You keep your clothes all neatly folded and pressed and hanged, thank you very much. Like hell you’re gonna be the type of person who leaves your nice clothing sprawled across your room.

Luckily, there is a lovely row of thick socks waiting, so you grab a pair and shove them on the ice cubes at the ends of your legs. So much better. But it’s still cold, and you need something that’ll warm the empty cavity that is your chest, so you gladly exit the chilly bedroom in favor of the kitchen, where you fill a teapot and set it on the stovetop.

Through the small window over the counter, you can see thick snowflakes swirling through the air, mostly obscuring the view of the city streets. You wrap your arms around yourself and think about how glad you are that you don’t have to go out there.

They say a watched pot never boils, so you turn your attention to the cabinets, where you retrieve the best mug and the hot chocolate mix, splurging for two packages rather than one because why the fuck not. You deserve it. The water doesn’t take very long, luckily, and soon enough you’re stirring it in, along with a dash of milk for good measure, and returning to the discarded guitar propped up against the couch.

The chocolatey warmth spreads through you, and a smile rises to your lips for the first time that evening. Feeling rejuvenated from that one sip, the guitar is returned to its place in your lap, and you fiddle around with it a bit, trying to coax a decent melody out of its stubborn strings. But of course, just as you think you might be onto something, your phone goes off, alerting you to two new text messages.

HEY DICKHEAD. COME OVER.

BRING YOUR GUITAR.

You make a face at the screen and take a long sip of hot chocolate before responding:

by any chance have you looked outside lately kar
its practically a fuckin blizzard out there
anyway we dont have a rehearsal today

The response is prompt; you barely get a few notes out before you have to stop again.

TOO FUCKING BAD. IT’S NOT A REHEARSAL, IT’S A JAM SESSION. AND I DON’T CARE HOW BAD IT IS OUTSIDE, I WILL NOT LET YOU USE THE WEATHER AS AN EXCUSE TO STAY AT HOME ALONE AND BE AN EMO LITTLE SHIT.

You scoff at this response, thought it’s pretty much standard Karkat, and look up from your place on the couch out the other window. Yep, still snowing. Karkat’s place is only a block away, luckily, but…still. You are in no mood to go out there.

look kar
im all for team bondin and whatever
but im really not feelin too well
i think im gonna have to bail

Even as you send it, you know that Karkat won’t accept that answer. You are quickly proven right.

NOPE, THIS IS NON-NEGOTIABLE. YOU’VE DONE ENOUGH CRYING AND MOPING IN THE PAST FEW WEEKS TO DROWN A PUPPY. ALL YOU DO IS STEW IN YOUR OWN FESTERING JUICES OF SELF-DEPRICATION; TAKE A FUCKING SHOWER BEFORE THE MOLD OF YOUR SELF-HATRED GROWS OUT OF YOUR SKULL AND CRAWLS TOWARDS THE NEAREST HAPPY PERSON TO DEVOUR THEM.

AND BY SHOWER, I DON'T MEAN THE NORMAL KIND, WITH WATER. YOU NEED LIKE...A FRIENDSHIP SHOWER.

SHUT UP. JUST COME OVER.

There is nothing quite like a face full of caps-locked, Karkat-brand extended metaphors to shake you from your stupor. With a heavy sigh, you push yourself up and return to the icebox otherwise known as your bedroom, where you trade the world’s most comfortable sweatpants for tight black jeans and a deep blue sweater. It doesn’t matter if you’re just hanging out in your friends’ living room; you’re still not gonna look like a slob. After a once-over in the mirror, confirming that your hair looks elegantly disheveled, you shoot him a quick response:

be there in a few

After quickly finishing up your drink—there’s no way you’re letting such a nice treat go to waste—you bundle up in your favorite black pea coat, the one with the coattails which kinda make you feel like a badass every time you wear it, and your favorite blue striped scarf. Your guitar is placed lovingly in its case, along with your songwriting notebook, for good measure. When you’ve made sure you have everything—wallet, keys, phone, guitar case slung over your shoulder—you head out, taking the elevator down from your 7th floor apartment to the lobby.

It really is only a block away, but it feels like the longest block of your life as you are immediately assaulted by harshly blowing snow the moment you step outside. You shove your hands deep into your pockets and duck your head, immediately wishing you had opted for something with a hood, though you’re not sure if it would have even stayed up with this wind.

The walk is torturous, but you manage to push through, shuffling along as quickly as your feet and the wind will allow you, and thankfully you don’t have to stop to wait at the corner even though there is a stop signal because almost nobody is on the road right now. Their apartment building looms before you, and you sigh in relief at the immediate warmth that floods through you upon entry, whereupon you shake your head like a dog and run a hand through your depressingly soaked hair.

You impatiently mash the up button on the elevator, as if pressing it a million times will make it arrive any faster. There's only one elevator, and it is alarmingly clunky and old. Constantly breaking down, or so you hear. Not exactly a reassuring thought, but there’s no way you’re gonna take nine flights of stairs up, so you continue to impatiently press the button until the doors open with a ding.

Upon reaching their door, you knock it impatiently, and are greeted with a shout of, “IT’S OPEN,” so you stroll on in. The annoyingly cluttered living room is stuffed with the usual gang, sprawled all over the couch and the floor and wherever else there’s room. The coffee table is overflowing with junk food, and almost everyone’s got some sort of instrument in their hands.

The couch is occupied by Karkat, Terezi, and Kanaya, each of whom says hi in their own sort of way. Vriska has claimed the big armchair, and she lifts a hand off her guitar to give you the finger, which is the equivalent of a friendly hello from her. Equius is sitting on one of those hollow boxes that can be used to drum on, and right next to him Nepeta and Aradia have made a nest of pillows on the floor. The latter two give you a wave. And of course, Gamzee is smiling at you with half-lidded eyes from his beanbag chair, with Tavros next to him leaning against it. The only person missing is Sollux, and a quick glance at the door of his and Karkat’s shared bedroom reveals a “Do Not Disturb” sign, which almost certainly means he’s working on some bullshit computer nonsense.

You can’t really see where there’s room for you, and a nagging voice in your head quietly whispers that maybe you shouldn’t have come after all, that they’re just fine without you. But Kanaya pats the wide arm of the couch next to her with a welcoming smile, so you shrug off your coat, kick off your boots, and retrieve the guitar from its case, taking a spot on that arm and settling the guitar on your lap.

“Play that chord again, Vriska,” Karkat instructs, and she obliges without protest. He nods in satisfaction and says, “Yeah, yeah, that sounds surprisingly good.” She makes a note of it in her book, and in the interim, filled only by the sound of Aradia and Nepeta chattering and Terezi messing with some rhythm shakers she’d plucked from Equius, you check the tuning of your guitar, even though you’d just been playing it at your place.

When you decide that you’re satisfied, you strum a chord or two, and it seems to remind Vriska of something, as she follows your lead and adds on. She gives you a look that says, “come on idiot, you know this one,” and you actually smile as you start to sing. Everyone else recognizes it too, and it falls into place like the pieces of a puzzle.

The verse is just your voice and Vriska’s fingers, but when it reaches the chorus everyone comes in, even the people who aren’t actually members. Karkat has cleared a space on the old coffee table to drum on, Gamzee’s got his acoustic bass, Kanaya’s even got a smaller version of her keyboard stretched across her lap. Everyone else has some sort of rhythm instrument, even Tavros with his rinky little tambourine.

Aradia adds her voice to yours in harmony, even though the song only has male vocals originally, and you look at her in surprise and appreciation. It sounds really good, actually, and you still sort of feel like an ass for denying her joining so vehemently. She meets your gaze and offers you a smile as she continues to sing, and you feel the tips of your mouth curl up as well.

“I’m taking a bite right out of the Big Apple in my every day, where everyone’s an asshole in the kindest way,” you smirk. Everyone laughs and grins in appreciation, and Karkat raises a stick and proclaims, “Amen to that!”

Everyone really gets into it, and it feels kind of great filling the tiny apartment up with the sound of your music. It’s a different feeling than at rehearsal, when it’s mostly work and little play. It’s a different feeling than at concerts, when the adrenaline of the crowd builds you up in the most amazing way, but there’s also the pressure to perform well. You’re not even a band right now—you’re just a group of kids making music together. And in this moment, you feel closer with them than you’ve felt in a while.

You’re usually a very organized person, but there’s something really fun about the spontaneity of a jam session. Everyone just kinda fell impromptu into this song; it wasn’t planned, and neither is what comes when you finish, everyone laughing and cheering, and Kanaya suddenly dances her fingers over a few keys, which makes Aradia think of another song. She begins to sing on her own, and then Terezi and Nepeta give her a rhythm with their shakers, and you make up something on your guitar that sounds like it could be a decent accompaniment, and soon everyone just sort of hops in, one way or another. It sounds nothing like the original, especially considering that half of the group doesn’t even know what song she’s singing, but that’s okay.

After that, you tell everyone about an idea you had, and instruct Kanaya to play a few chords. She obliges, and you come in, singing half from memory and half improvising, which means you reach a part in which you totally flub everything and have to come up with something that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Everyone laughs, but it’s not mocking, and Aradia sings with you, taking the attention off the light flush on your cheeks.

Once again, your voices blend in the most interesting way. They’re so different, and they shouldn’t sound good together, but for some reason they just work. Hers is a distinct alto with just a bit of grit in it that can also float up sweetly to the high end of the spectrum, while yours is a versatile baritenor with a smoother quality and a wavy vibrato. They shouldn’t work together, but they do, and you sort of love it.

Karkat offers to trade with Vriska, and she makes a big deal over “handing her precious guitar over for a pair of shitty drumsticks and a pockmarked table”, but she eventually gets up and switches spots with him. Once he’s got the guitar in his hands, he gives Aradia something of a mischievous smirk and begins to play a familiar tune, which you take a moment or two to register.

“Oh my god Kar, you’ve gotta be kiddin’ me,” you say in disbelief, laughing. “How do you even know the chords to this?”

He ignores you, looking expectantly at Aradia, and she’s giggling but she knows what he’s playing and she begins to sing. Her voice is certainly not the same style as Taylor Swift’s, but she takes on the challenge and makes it her own in a manner that you’re quickly beginning to associate with her.

There’s not a whole lot of shaking and banging involved in this song, but everyone does their own thing anyway, laughing and joking when it sounds terrible and cheering appreciatively in the odd moments where it comes together to sound fantastic.

In the break between songs, Gamzee asks Equius to up and give him a motherfucking beat, and upon receiving one, he starts freestyle rapping in a truly awful fashion. It’s just dreadful, even more so when he nudges Tavros into responding with his own freestyle rap, but there’s something so fun and carefree about it that no one really gives a shit about how horrible it is, though of course Vriska can’t resist her snarky commentary.

Maybe it’s a result of all these bodies packed into a small room, or maybe it’s just from playing around, but it’s much warmer in here than it was in your apartment, and you’re beginning to regret the thick sweater you chose. Still, it feels so much nicer than tundra of your empty place, and given the choice, you’d rather spend all night here. You look over at Karkat and flash him a sort of half-smile, suddenly very grateful that he made you come. He looks a bit taken aback, but he shrugs and smiles at you as well, and it’s such a rarity to see a genuine smile from Karkat that the half smile on your face develops into a full-fledged grin.

And rather than mocking you, as is often the case, everyone laughs in approval when you burst out, “I want it with whipped cream on it, baby, gimme, gimme, gimme your love.”

“Okay, okay, how about this,” Vriska says after claiming her guitar back from Karkat. She starts to play something that you guys had begun to work on at the last rehearsal, a potential song that wasn’t quite working right. This time around, though, she puts a new spin on it, and it may be exactly what the song needs to work.

At the rehearsal, you’d tried to play it on electric, and it was a good concept but there was something off. Now, on the acoustic guitar, and with Vriska’s changes, something seems to fall into place. You start to sing, modifying the melody to fit the new acoustic theme, and it feels so much better.

Kanaya comes in softly, just sustaining a few underlying chords to add another layer, and Gamzee joins as well, his deep bass notes providing a sort of stability as you lead into the chorus, where Terezi brings the shakers in, following the gentle rhythm that has been established. The second verse brings in Equius and Karkat, their more solid beats raising it up, and Tavros has added his tambourine to the mix. Aradia pulls out, of all things, a ukulele—since when could she play that?—and it becomes an almost invaluable addition, floating lightly over the melody and blending in the most intriguingly beautiful way.

Everybody is in now, the notes and the rhythms coming together in one unified sound, and you really start to pour your heart into the words as the most wonderful feeling of warmth builds in your chest. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn close, and what had once been a terrible mess of potential is now a truly beautiful thing. You close your eyes, letting the music wash through you, feeling the rush of serenity as it wipes away the sadness in your heart.

You wish you could capture this moment in time, hold it forever, keep it close. But the song comes to an end, with a few last lingering notes, and you open your eyes and look around the room. Everybody seems to have felt it, judging by the looks on their faces, and no one really knows what to say. Finally, Aradia says, “Wow,” in a tiny voice, and everybody nods in agreement.

“I think we need to add that to our repertoire,” you say.

“I think we need to record the shit out of that,” Karkat says.

After that, it disintegrates into a disorganized jumble of chords and nonsense, with everybody shouting out suggestions and trading instruments, even though you’re fairly certain that Nepeta has zero skill on the guitar and Terezi can’t play anything more than “Heart and Soul” on the piano, but it doesn’t matter cause everyone is enjoying themselves.

Water becomes a desperate necessity, so you put your guitar down and head over to the small kitchen, helping yourself to the fridge. And of course, because your timing is just so wonderful, you hear the sound of a door opening and turn your head to see Sollux emerging from his cave. He looks like a hot mess, with his hair sticking up at odd angles and deep circles under his eyes, and you’d bet your guitar on the fact that he hasn’t slept in over 24 hours. Nearly everyone shouts a hello at him, but he shuffles around the sprawling mass of people around his living room to the kitchen, offering a half-hearted grumble in response.

God, what an asshole. His presence alone is enough to dampen your abnormally high spirits, and you sincerely hope that he plans to disappear back into his room and stay there. You do your best to avoid him, not even looking in his direction as you peer into the fridge and retrieve the water pitcher. But apparently you’re in his way, and there’s only so much room in this narrow little excuse for a kitchen, so when he tries to brush past you to the cabinets, you accidentally back into him, and he scoffs.

“Way to watch where you’re going, dumbass,” he remarks, shooting you a look. This is a familiar game you play. He calls you a dumbass, you call him a prick, and suddenly you’re going back and forth, seeing who can spew the cleverest insults at the other.

But you’re really not in the mood for once, so you brush it off and say, “Whatever, I don’t really give a damn right now.”

Sollux, however, isn’t done. He looks like hell, like he’s about ready to toss his precious computer out a window. Here are all of his friends, clearly having fun (very loud fun, at that) in his own living room, while he’s locked up in what you assume to be a school project, with nothing but numbers and letters for company. You look him over, take note of the tension that’s clearly visible, and realize that he’s trying to pick a fight.

“I hope you realize what an obnoxious piece of shit you are,” he pushes, and you’re trying not to let it get to you, trying not to give him what he wants, but now he’s turning to face you head-on and giving you the dirtiest look he can muster. “Why don’t you just take your hideous face and your god-awful hipster clothes and get the fuck out of my kitchen?”

Your hands ball into fists at your sides, and eyes narrow to slits. “I wouldn’t be talkin’ if I were you. You look like you just crawled outta the fuckin’ sewer.”

This kitchen is too damn small, you think, as he takes a step closer, giving you the same condescending look he’d employed on you hundreds of times before.

“You think you’re such hot shit, don’t you?” he sneers, his weird bi-colored eyes gleaming. You find yourself trapped in their gaze, and it’s freaky as much as it’s strangely mesmerizing, and you kinda wanna slap yourself for thinking that. “Always that damned air of superiority, walking around like you own the place. Well, guess what? You. Don’t.”

Sollux punctuates his words with two sharp jabs to the chest, and you immediately slap his hand away, snarling. “Don’t you dare put your filthy hands on me,” you snap.

His hands rise in mock innocence, and he’s got the most aggravating look of disdain on his face. “My apologies, your highness. I would never want to hurt a purple hair on your lovely little head.”

He’s got barely an inch on you, but he still manages look down on you. And he thinks you’re the stuck-up one. It’s then that you realize exactly how much your personal space is being violated, but fuck if you’re gonna be the one who backs down, so you hold your ground and even lean forward a bit to indicate that you’re not intimidated by him or his bullshit words.

“You can use as much sarcasm and self-righteousness as you’d like,” you hiss in a dangerously low tone, “but between the two of us, I don’t think I’m the one who needs the attitude adjustment.”

He tries not to show it, but he is caught off guard by your response, just for a moment. You’re about to take this opportunity to go in for the kill, the perfect barb on the tip of your tongue, but then you feel a hand grip hard on your arm, and Karkat tugs you backwards. You let out a yelp of protest and brush him off, directing your anger on him instead, and he glares between the two of you.

“I just cleaned this floor today, I really don’t need to see any bloodstains on it,” he says, and knowing Karkat, he could have continued on a ten minute rant full of absurd curses and accidental innuendos, but this statement alone is enough. Sollux gives you one last look, intensity burning in his eyes, and stalks past you in a huff. A moment later, you hear a door slam, and you can practically feel the entire population of the living room wince.

Karkat is giving you that look again, and you really don’t wanna hear it. “I can’t leave you two children alone for five minutes without one of you going for the jugular. Grow the fuck up.”

He turns around and makes his way back to his spot on the couch, and you reluctantly follow after getting your water, muttering, “he started it,” under your breath.

You try to fall back into your earlier mood of contentment, but you just can’t seem to settle the beast that’s gnawing away at the inside of your chest.

Chapter Text

Eridan: Deal with the shit again.

The unfortunate part of performing so many shows is that there is no such thing as a magical equipment fairy that will carry and transport and store all of your shit for you. And despite the fact that there is a fucking rotation, you’re once again stuck covering for the slackers.

You actually made a valiant effort to escape. There was some very nice acting involved. However, it was a bit ruined when Sollux grabbed you by the collar and hissed, “Not so fast, fuckwad. If I have to be dealing with your shit, then so do you.”

Thankfully, you haven’t been left to the wolves entirely tonight, and Equius is around to do most of the hauling, with Nepeta flitting about and grabbing what she can as well. Honestly, you’re not sure where you’d be without Eq. Not only is the van itself his, but he magnanimously drives it to every show, and when the shit isn’t being used, he stores it all in the (admittedly very spacious) loft that he shares with his stepsister.

Tonight actually is Sollux’s night to help according to the not-so-helpful chart that Karkat made, but it’s certainly not yours, so you whine throughout the duration of the ride to the loft, where you’re expected to help unload. Sollux looks about ready to rip your head off, but you don’t shut up until Nepeta finally turns around from her spot in the passenger’s seat and chucks a spare drumstick at your head.

Luckily, there is a very convenient service elevator that opens directly into the loft, so there’s no awkward hallway shuffling and maneuvering through too-small doors. All you gotta do is bring the shit from the van to the elevator, ride up, and pull it out into the open area. Equius takes care of the rest. Equius takes care of most of it, really, and you’re starting to wonder why you’re even there.

When the last trip has been made, you lean against the wall of the open elevator and offer the drummer a two-fingered salute. “Good work,” you tell him, and it’s probably the closest to a “thank you” you’ll ever give.

He half-smiles and nods at you and Sollux. “And you, Ampora. Captor.”

You make it a point to not look at the asshole, and wish he’d find his own damn elevator. “Later, EQ,” he answers.

Nepeta chimes in with a cheerful, “Night, boys!” and you both wave to her, and then you’re pressing the button to the lobby and the doors are closing and the elevator is moving down and then suddenly it is…stopping.

You’re halfway between floors four and three when it comes to a shuddering halt, and you don’t need to hear the awful creak of metal to know that something is very wrong with this picture. “What the—”

“Holy fuck, is this a joke?” Sollux deadpans, looking up at the doors and the numbers that should be slowly ticking down but are not. He glances briefly at you, then back to the control panel, as if staring at it hard enough would be enough to will it back into motion. “Oh my god, this is not happening.”

A similar thought runs repeatedly through your mind as you grab the metal grated doors and give them a good shake, like that’ll actually do something. “Hello? Can anyone hear me? We’re stuck!” you yell up the elevator shaft. The only response that comes is an echo.

Sollux has already got his phone out, waving it around in a desperate attempt to find service. You pull out your iPhone and feel triumphant and superior to discover that your service is working fine. Equius answers on the second ring, and he barely gets out a hello before you’re shouting abuse into his ear.

“Eq you gotta help us the elevator broke down an’ now we’re stuck here and we gotta get out okay I’ve got shit to do and it’s fuckin’ hot and I don’t wanna be stuck here with THIS GUY—” upon which Sollux starts shouting over your shoulder into the phone, but he hardly gets a few words before you start shoving him away, all the while still blabbing at your drummer.

Equius is a patient soul, and he waits until you’ve finished having your panic attack to respond. “Unfortunately, this tends to happen to old elevators like this on occasion. There’s nothing I can do to help you, except to assure you that you will not be trapped there all night—if the problem does not fix itself, the building super will tend to it shortly.”

And with that, he hangs up on you. You stare open-mouthed at your phone for a moment before letting out a frustrated yell and hitting the wall with your free hand. “Lousy stupid goddamn worthless piece a’ shit,” you curse, trying to pretend that didn’t hurt your hand at all.

“Is that how you talk about all your friends? Or just the good ones?” Sollux scoffs derisively.

You scowl and flip him off. “You were sayin’ the same shit five seconds ago, dickhead. Don’t be such a hypocrite.”

“I’M the hypocrite? Please. I’m not even half the hypocrite you are,” he snaps.

“Oh yeah? Please, Sol, do tell me all about my hypocrisy,” you bait him, crossing your arms.

“I don’t think we’ll be here long enough for that.”

“In other words, I just caught you in your own comeback, and you have nothin’ good to say.”

“I’ve got plenty to say, but I’d rather not waste my time having childish arguments with a worthless prick like you,” he snarls, and turns his back on you, effectively cutting off the volley.

Your hands ball into fists and you do your best to hold back a nasty response. God, what a fucking douchebag. He totally gets enjoyment out of pushing your buttons.

It’s hot in here, and it seems like you’re gonna be here for a while, so you pull off your pea coat and sit cross-legged on the floor with a humph. Sollux tugs his coat off and balls it into some sort of back-cushion before leaning back against the wall. You’d never treat your clothing that way—yours gets folded nicely and laid gently next to you. You can practically feel him rolling his eyes at you, but you don’t respond.

As great as your cell phone service is, there’s nothing you can do about the fact that there’s only 7% of the battery left (wait—make that 6%), and you don’t want to kill it in case you actually need it to get out of here, so any sort of fooling around with it to pass the time is out of the question. This means that the majority of your time is spent with your head leaning back against the wall as you and Sollux trade sighs and occasional petty insults.

“Stop that,” he says after what feels like forever.

“Stop what?” you huff, already frustrated with whatever he’s going to scold you for.

“You keep tapping your nails against the ground, and it’s annoying,” he snaps.

“You’re annoyin’,” you answer without skipping a beat, and continue to drum your nails just because you know it’s bugging him.

“Ooh, real clever with the insults tonight. How long did it take you to think of that one?” he laughs.

You sneer and lean forward, cause it’s dark in here and you can’t see him very well. “Would you like me to come up with something better? I’m sure it won’t be hard.”

He leans forward as well in mock-interest, folding his hands together and leaning his chin on them. “Oh, please do. This ought to be entertaining.”

Crap. Now you’ve actually gotta think of something good. He’s smirking at you now, like he knows you can’t think of anything, and you want nothing more than to wipe that smirk off his face for good.

“The fuck is your problem, anyway?” you scowl. “Is this really fun for you? Pushin’ all my buttons, bein’ a total dickface for no good reason? What did I even do to make you hate me so much?”

He looks momentarily surprised, like he was not expecting you to go down that road. His surprise is quickly replaced with a defensive frown and a response: “Well fuck, ED, it’s not like it’s a one way street. You’re just as terrible to me.”

“Yeah, cause you fuckin’ started it!” you protest, raising your voice.

“I didn’t start shit, you insufferable douche,” he bites back at you, pushing himself forward off the wall to get up in your face. “It’s just fucking impossible to talk to you without getting pissed off because you’re so damn obnoxious. God knows why the others even bother to keep you around.”

He’s lit a fire under you now, and you’re tempted to stand up and give him a good shove, but you remain on the ground with him and settle for invading his personal space in what is hopefully a threatening manner. “I’m the key fuckin’ member of this band, you dipshit; it wouldn’t even exist without me. And where would you be? Locked in your room like the freaky computer nerd you are, makin’ friends with numbers rather than makin’ actual human interaction.”

“At least my idea of human interaction involves friends who actually care about me, rather than bandmates who just happen to put up with me,” he hisses.

That fucking stings. You try not to look like you’ve been slammed in the gut. “I have plenty a’ friends,” you say, but your voice doesn’t sound very convincing.

His smirk grows, and he knows he’s won. “Just face it. No one gives two shits about you. You’re nothing more than a pretty face and a halfway-decent voice.”

It happens so fast that it takes you a moment to become fully aware of what’s going on. One second, you’re lunging towards him, with every intention of punching his fucking lights out. The next, his face is in your hands, and your lips are pressed to his, letting out months of pent-up anger and frustration in the most primal way you know. Something snapped inside of you, and you needed to shut him up, and suddenly the entire world has turned upside down.

Time stops. Your objective has been achieved, as he is no longer speaking. No longer moving, either—he has frozen entirely, body gone stock still and stiff, and this is enough to make you realize what the fuck you are doing right now as you pull back, detaching your lips and taking a deep breath. Your eyes are probably wide as saucers, and your hands tremble as you bring them back to your sides. Lips part, but no explanation spills out, no answers present themselves.

Sollux is looking at you, and you would imagine that a similar expression is gracing his face. That, or disgust, or anger, or any sort of mixture, take your pick. But the elevator is dark, and you are insanely thankful and incredibly terrified at the same time. You don’t want to see that look, don’t want to read the awful thoughts that are surely crossing his mind, but at the same time it’s torturous not knowing what his response is.

That is, until he snarls and grabs the back of your neck, pulling you forward with so much force that you tumble into his lap even as your mouth is shoved against his. For a moment, you are too shocked to move, but you quickly get over it and lean into him, reciprocating with equal vigor.

This is no gentle brush of the lips, no sweet peck. There is no declaration of emotions; in fact, there isn’t a whole lot of emotion involved. This is hard, needy, desperate. This is want, lust, greed. His lips slide against yours with much more pressure than strictly necessary, and as he sucks on your upper lip and leaves an unexpected nip, it occurs to you that there is no way he is this rough when he’s kissing Aradia.

Aradia. The name stops you cold as it rings through your head. Wasn’t he…didn’t they…and then the train of thought promptly drives right off the tracks as his tongue slides past your lips, and the hand on your neck brushes up to your hair, tugging lightly at it as he explores the inside of your mouth.

You let out a hiss, breathing it into his mouth as his tongue begins to wrestle with yours, because even this is a fight for dominance, just another one of your arguments. Your hands are clutching at his shoulders, and his free hand curls around your waist, pulling you closer…

And just as suddenly, he pulls back and just looks at you, and when your face is this close to his you can see the desire in his eyes, which even now are filling with shock and confusion, along with a few other emotions that you can’t quite place. Both of you are breathing heavily, and almost simultaneously you lessen your grips and sort of drift backwards.

“Sol, wh—” you start, but he cuts you off with a quick shake of the head, his eyes never leaving yours.

An unbearable silence falls like a blanket as the gaze is held, until he finally looks away and backs himself up until he is pressed against the wall behind him.

“This never happened,” he says, still not looking at you. His voice is impossibly quiet, but every ounce of your attention is locked into him, and there was no way you could have missed it.

You nod slowly, even though he probably can’t see it. You don’t know what to say as you press your own back to the opposite wall, curling your knees into your chest. It would be a lot easier to form words if you could make sense of the thoughts racing through your head and the pounding in your chest, but you can’t, so you don’t.

You’re not sure exactly how much time passes. Probably only minutes, but it feels like hours, days, each second stretched out past the point of recognizable time as your breathing returns to normal, but your heartbeat does not.

And then the lights flicker on, and the elevator shudders before returning its downward descent, coming to a stop at the lobby. You stand on slightly shaky legs, not looking at Sollux, and exit the moment those doors slide open, grabbing your coat and all but running into the safety of the outside world.

 

Sollux: Freak out.

Who’s freaking out? You’re definitely not freaking out.

You’re not even thinking about it, to be honest. You’re certainly not replaying last night in your brain over and over.

And you’re definitely not watching Aradia with a sinking feeling in your stomach.

Okay, so you’re a shit liar. You barely slept at all last night, and you seriously considered playing sick and not coming in to help today.

But then he would’ve won. And you absolutely can’t let that happen.

You act as normal as possible during the sound check, tossing the usual casual insults his way and the usual compliments at your (beautiful, wonderful, loyal,) girlfriend. Still, your stomach keeps doing these weird little flips every time you look at him, and it’s getting really ridiculous.

When the sound check is over, Aradia comes over to say hello, so you put your game face on. You smile when she kisses you on the cheek, and pull her in by the waist for a real kiss, and it feels just fine. Totally normal.

With any luck, you can just completely pretend last night didn’t happen at all. Erase it from your memory banks, go back to the way things were. Everything is normal. Everything is fine.

“I’m a little unsure of the setlist tonight,” Aradia says, a slight frown on her pretty face. You shake your head and smile reassuringly, lightly tapping her nose.

“Hey, don’t even worry about it,” you tell her, playing the supportive boyfriend. “No matter what’s in store, I know you’ll be great.” It seems to work, as it draws a smile from her, and she gives you another peck.

“Thanks, Sollux. I’m so glad to have you here.”

Your smile flickers for half a second, but she doesn’t seem to notice. Her hand finds yours and gives it a quick squeeze, and then she’s off, disappearing backstage with everyone else. You sigh and lean up against the sound board, propping an elbow on the table and your chin in your hand. You can totally do this. This is just a tiny blip on the radar, it’ll be gone before you know it.

And then you catch sight of Eridan, and he’s looking your way, and you feel the flip in your stomach that’s getting all too familiar.

Fuck.

Okay, you can do this. Just breathe, look away, focus on your work. Which is hard to do, considering the sound check is done, and you have nothing to do now but to wait, wait as the band goes backstage and the crowd gradually pours in, wait until the shitty opening act takes the stage, and then you can focus all of your attention on the board in front of you. And even that’s hard to get through, because the band sucks. You don’t remember their name, but it’s something really idiotic, almost as idiotic as the lead singer’s hair.

You suffer through their set, wishing you could at least go sit in the VIP section with Nepeta so you had someone to commiserate with. But then they finally end, and Wayward Renegade takes the stage after the crew cleans it up and resets it. You actually like them, so it’s not bad tending to their shit, and you play with them so frequently that you actually know most of their songs. The best one is probably The Wanderer. Not like you know all the words or titles or anything.

When they finish, you lean your elbow against the counter and put your chin in your hand, waiting with impatience as they leave the stage and the crew comes back out. Arsenic Aquarium is next, not the headliner tonight but an opening band for some other big shot band that you’ve never even heard of. Still, at least they’re the last of the opening bands, it’s really not a bad slot. The majority of the crowd seems to know them anyway, as evidenced by their cheers when Gamzee, Equius, Kanaya, and Vriska head out to help set up their equipment.

Eridan and Aradia come out last, as usual. Everyone seems to have taken really well to Aradia, despite how well loved Feferi was. You smile when you hear someone scream her name, because she deserves it. But you’ll never understand why Eridan has fangirls, or what they even see in him.

You can think of one or two things they might like about him, a little voice in your head says, conjuring up images of his deep blue eyes, wide and confused as they stared into yours, his cheeks flushed and his hair slightly mussed up, and…

No. You push it away angrily, a scowl forming on your face as you do a few last-minute adjustments with them before they launch into their first song, some upbeat duet that used to be Eridan’s favorite to perform with FF. Probably because it was one of their only duets that wasn’t some sort of angry breakup song, and maybe he could pretend for three minutes that when they sang this love song, she really meant those lyrics.

Ugh. Pathetic.

The set is on the shorter side today, since they’re only opening for someone else, so it goes by relatively quickly. You watch in appreciation as Aradia sings two fantastic solos, though they’re broken up by one of Eridan’s—something about regret, and you wonder if he picked that particular song for a reason.

There’s a copy of the set list in your booth, and you look down at it, wondering what’s next. And then you make a face, because you remember seeing this earlier and protesting it.

You told everyone it’s a stupid choice, but no one listened to you. You told them this song was overdone, this band was played out and cliché, and that the crowd would not approve.

And then Eridan starts singing.

His hands are gripping the mic stand, and his lips are shoved up against the microphone, and you suddenly remember the feeling of those lips on yours.

Wait, what? Stop that.

You shake your head in an attempt to clear it, and tell yourself to look at Aradia, your beautiful girlfriend. But there’s no part for her in this song, and she’s left the stage. You try to look at Vriska, Gamzee, Kanaya, Equius, but your eyes are inevitably drawn back to the punk rock douchebag standing front and center.

There’s something beyond intense in his voice as he croons the words like the microphone is his lover’s ear, and you’re pretty sure you’ve never envied an inanimate object before, but when his hand slides teasingly down the stand like that, something flips in your stomach.

A tiny, rational voice in your head is telling you to snap the fuck out of it, but you’re totally mesmerized, it’s actually pretty sickening. A few girls in the front row reach up, trying to touch him, and he smoulders at them, an honest to god smoulder as he sings to them and grasps their hands, much to their delight.

Fucking disgusting. He’s a desperate piece of shit, so why are you still unable to look away.

You’ve stood on that stage before with the lights shining in your eyes, and you know for a fact that it’s difficult to see past the first few rows of people, let alone to the back of the room. But suddenly he looks up and his eyes are locked directly on you, you’re completely sure of this, and you freeze, completely incapable of tearing your gaze away. The corner of his mouth lifts in the tiniest hint of a smirk, which you suddenly know for certain is meant for you and you alone.

Which is why when the show ends, and everyone is out mingling with the fans and there’s no one backstage but you and him, you pin him up against the wall of the dark, cramped hallway and wipe that smirk off his lips with your own.

Chapter Text

Sollux: Lose your mind.

Eridan responds almost immediately, as if he was expecting this sort of reaction, asking for it, and you can feel that smirk returning as your lips move against his, so when he leans forward in an attempt to gain control, you place your hands flat against his chest and shove him hard against the wall before attacking his mouth with as much force as you can muster.

He lets out a whimper, and he’s pathetic, until he bites your lip and digs his nails into your sides, and maybe you’re a little impressed by that. Just a little. One of your hands is fisted in his stupid plaid button up, and the other is gripping the side of his head. His hair is slick with sweat from the show, and it’s kind of gross, almost as gross as the fact that you are really turned on right now. But the musky scent mixed with his cologne is oddly addicting, and when he flicks out his tongue, hot and wet, and runs it over the spot he just bit, you literally feel your breath catch in your throat.

“I fucking hate you,” you snarl, pushing him back again. But no matter what you do, you simply cannot rid his face of that goddamn smirk. He looks triumphant, like he’s won something, and you’re determined to prove otherwise. Your fingers tangle in his hair and pull, and he makes a slight noise of surprise and pain as you shove your lips to his ear and hiss: “Don’t think this changes anything. You’re still a disgusting little shit.”

“And you’re still a worthless piece of trash,” he assures you, his breathing uneven but his voice confident. To be perfectly honest, you’re surprised. You’d expected him to cling desperately to what you offered him, maybe go a little weak at the knees. Instead, as you draw back and look him in the eyes, he’s sending you a look that says I can take whatever you throw at me.

As much as you hate to admit it, you gain a shred of respect for him at that.

“I know what you were trying to pull with that song,” you growl, and the space between you is practically microscopic. He puts on an innocent face, but you don’t buy it for a second. “Don’t even think about trying shit like that again.”

His face is right there, and you are so tempted to just say fuck it and capture those lips again, but a small rational voice in the back of your head finally shows up to call you to your senses, so with one last nasty look you push yourself away from him and stalk down the hallway, not even looking behind you to see his response.

 

Sollux: Be dragged to party.

“Oh, come on! It’ll be fun!”

Famous last words if you’ve ever heard ‘em. Aradia looks at you with those big brown eyes, and you can’t really say no to them, so you sigh and shrug. “Okay, fine.”

Which is how you find yourself blinking in the shared apartment of Kanaya, Vriska, and Terezi. Kanaya is the perfect host, taking your coat as you enter and bringing it to one of the bedrooms, even though credit for the party goes to Vriska and Terezi.

They’ve gone all out with the setup, and by that you mean that they’ve turned out all normal light and filled the room with glowing neons and blacklights. Loud electronic music is pumping through speakers, and you have to wonder how they don’t get noise complaints from their neighbors.

Aradia is grinning next to you, the excitement of the atmosphere getting to her, and you can’t help but smile as well, if only because she’s so damn cute. Terezi saunters up with her usual shit-eating grin plastered to her face and a can in each hand.

“Double fisting it already, TZ?” you ask with a slight smirk. She chuckles and shoves the beer into your hands, one for you and one for Aradia.

“Not quite yet,” she says, “but no worries, the night is young!” She notices the subtle face that Aradia is making at the Bud Light in her hand and laughs again, pointing over to the kitchen counter that has been transformed into a makeshift bar. “There’s all sorts of shit over there if that isn’t your drink of preference.”

“And don’t forget about the jello shoooooooots!” Vriska adds, slinging an arm around Terezi’s shoulder and grinning. Terezi starts fist pumping to the imaginary shots song that is surely playing in her head, and Vriska directs a mockingly stern look at Aradia. “Watch out for those, dear. You don’t think they’re doing anything, and then BOOM, you’re fucked up!”

The roommates seem to find this immeasurably funny and practically collapse into each other in giggles, and you suspect that they may have pre-gamed for their own party. Aradia draws herself up to her full height, which is not very much compared to the other two girls, and deadpans, “Gee, thanks for the vote of the confidence, guys.”

You look at her and try to hold back your smile. “Admittedly, you are a bit of a lightweight.” She gives you a scandalized look, and you back off, laughing, when she swats at you, protesting profusely.

The three girls disappear to the “bar” as you are assaulted by Karkat, who’s got an awful grimace on his face. “What’s the matter, kid? Did someone kick sand in your potato salad?”

He practically growls as he answers, “No, but I’ll happily treat you to a kick of your own if you’re so amused by the idea. Someone had the brilliant idea to invite that group of shit lickers.” He gestures vaguely across the living room, and it takes you a moment of sifting through the group to discover the out-of-place members of Turntech Testified and their posse.

“So?” you ask, raising an eyebrow.

“So? Sollux, they’re the biggest bunch of douchebags I’ve ever had the displeasure of encountering, and that’s saying something.”

You roll your eyes as you pop open your beer and take a swig. “Stop being so dramatic, KK,” you tell him, which only makes him more indignant.

You tune out the rant he proceeds to go on as you walk over and snag a spot at the end of the overstuffed couch next to Nepeta, who smiles at you and clinks her glass against your can. Karkat huffs and sits on the arm of the couch, still complaining, so you shove him off mid-rant, much to the amusement of everyone watching. He yelps and manages to regain his balance, whereupon he threatens to spill his beer over your head, and you lift your hands in surrender, laughing. At least you got him to shut up.

It seems you and Aradia were some of the last to arrive, as the party is already in full swing. Everybody has got a drink of some sort in their hands, and more than one person looks a bit wobbly. One of the blonde chicks from TT seems like she’s smashed already, and she attempts to initiate a sloppy dance chain, even though there’s barely enough room for everyone to sit, let alone dance. Kanaya is seated next to the other blonde chick, and they look like they’re deep in conversation over something that is probably way too sophisticated for this atmosphere.

Equius is waving his hands animatedly as he chats with the kid with pointed shades, the band’s lead singer, while his brother is talking to their manager and their bassist. Terezi and Vriska, having returned from the kitchen area, practically assault the remaining two of the group, a bespectacled boy and girl who aren’t actually members of the band but always seem to be hanging around them.

You make a conscious effort to not look for Eridan. But, of course, in making an effort to not see him, you’re suddenly thinking about him, and can’t help but let your gaze fall on the dickhead. The drunk blonde girl had pulled him from his spot to dance with her, and as you watch, you think about how unfairly good those suspenders look on him.

Holy fuck. You absolutely did not just think that. What the fuck is wrong with you?

Aradia joins you a moment later, a drink in one hand and two jello shots in the other. She hands one of them to you, and hold it up to hers. “To us?” you suggest.

She takes a seat on your lap and looks around the room, beaming. “To Arsenic Aquarium,” she says instead, and though you nod, when your eyes unwittingly wander over to Eridan, you can’t help but wonder if that’s really something to be celebrating.

 

It’s been two hours since you’ve arrived, and there is not a sober soul in the room. Terezi and Vriska seem to have made it their personal mission to leave everybody completely smashed, even though the two of them are pretty far gone themselves. When the girl with short dark hair opts to take a break, she is subjected to ceaseless poking and prodding and nagging before she finally gives in and resumes drinking.

There have already been countless spills, each one accompanied by a chorus of “PARTY FOUL!” and a round of giggles, and Kanaya is the only one who makes any sort of effort to actually clean them up. Bottles and red solo cups are everywhere, because apparently nobody is self-aware enough to remember which cup is theirs, meaning that new ones are constantly being doled out.

Aradia has long since slid off your lap and is currently deep in discussion with some kid in a dark green shirt, and judging from the enthusiastic look on her face, ten bucks says it’s about archeology. Either that, or she’s expressing her immense desire to travel the world via hot air balloon while simultaneously studying wildlife and bungee jumping off as many things as she can. Or some shit like that. Alcohol tends to bring out her adventurous side.

Karkat abandoned you after he realized that you were no longer listening to him, and he’s currently attempting to pick a fight with the manager of TT. This is proving to be a difficult task, seeing as the kid can’t stop laughing at every single thing that Karkat says, which only makes KK’s face redder and redder, and even through the pumping music and the loud chatter of people you can hear every word as clear as day because he doesn’t seem to understand the concept of volume control.

You’ve been talking to the Strider brothers for who knows how long now because how do you even keep track of time when you’re having difficulty remembering what you ate for dinner? They’re actually not as douchey as you or Karkat imagined, and you could swear that the one with round shades has thrown at least three innuendos at you, but it’s probably just part of their stupid irony thing. Either way, you’ve learned a lot about them and the members of their band. The question is whether or not you’ll remember these fun facts tomorrow morning.

You learn that the manager, who is still being shouted at by Karkat, is named John, the bassist is Jade, and the totally plastered blonde chick is Roxy. You also learn that she seems to have a thing for punkrockemohipster lead singers. Not that you’ve really noticed, of course. You just wish she wasn’t flirting with him so shamelessly; it’s sort of embarrassing. He, of course, seems to be enjoying the attention, though from the amused look on his face, he hardly seems like he’s taking her seriously.

Again, not that you were watching, or anything. Just a casual observation.

Terezi and Vriska had, at one point, set up two chairs and laid a long wooden board over their tops to create the most unsturdy-looking beer pong table you’ve ever seen, but right now it’s being used for flip cup. The three housemates plus the other blonde girl who was talking to Kanaya (You can’t remember her name, but you think it’s a flower. Violet? Petunia? God only knows.) are taking on Nepeta, Equius, Gamzee, and Tavros, and every now and then there’s an eruption of cheers or boos. Equius, much to everyone’s amusement, has been cursing like a sailor, and every time he lets out a “fuck” in place of his usual “fiddlesticks” it sends Nepeta into a fit of giggles.

You’re not really paying attention to them as you talk with the Striders, but eventually you come to realize that they are spread out across the living room and figure they must’ve eventually gotten bored with the game. However, this game is quickly replaced with another as Roxy untangles herself from doucheprince and announces in a loud slur, “We should play spin the bottle!”

Wait. Seriously? Is this a middle school party, or what?

“Seriously? Are we in middle school?” her sister asks, and you shoot her an appreciative glance, but she doesn’t catch it.

Terezi’s got a dangerous glint in her eyes as she replies, “Well I think it sounds like fun!” Nepeta seems entirely too excited by this prospect, as do several others, and you have a bad feeling about this.

Still others protest, but Terezi declares that this is her apartment and she is ruling in favor of the game, and Vriska seems all too happy to play along as she moves the coffee table aside to make room for a wide circle with an empty beer bottle in the middle.

“THIS IS IDIOTIC,” Karkat says, and you cringe, because dude. Volume control. Any concept of an “inside voice” seems to have flown out of his head.

Aradia crawls clumsily from her seated position on the floor over to you, but can’t seem to pull herself up to the couch, so she leans contentedly against your legs. Everyone arranges themselves in the circle, draped across each other in ways that don’t even make sense, and Karkat is definitely leaning against that John kid, who seems physically unable to stop laughing at anything and everything.

“Me first me first me first,” Roxy insists as she leans far over from her kneeling position to reach the bottle, whereupon she nearly loses her balance and falls flat on her face. She does, however, manage to make a successful spin, and it lands on Equius. You can’t blame the disappointed look that crosses her face, but she replaces it with a laugh and beckons him over. He looks predictably nervous, but gets far too into it when she connects their mouths, and you wonder how she can stand it.

Equius spins next, and it lands on Nepeta.

“Okay, that is just motherfucking strange,” Gamzee notes, and everyone happens to agree. Nepeta grabs her stepbrother’s shoulders and peppers his face with tiny little kisses, casually avoiding his actual lips. Everyone seems to find this acceptable.

Nepeta’s spin lands on John, and she looks uncomfortable, having never spoken even a word to the guy. He laughs and leans over, planting a sweet little peck on her lips, before reclaiming his spot and spinning the bottle himself.

Wonderfully, hilariously, it lands on Karkat. He looks absolutely horrified and immediately begins to shake his head wildly.

“NO NO NO NO NOPE, NO FUCKING WAY, I AM NOT KISSING HIM, MAKE HIM SPIN AGAIN,” he protests. John doesn’t look incredibly enthused either, his nose wrinkled like a child.

“Too bad!” Terezi cackles, reaching over and shoving Karkat towards the manager. “The bottle landed on you, so he’s gotta kiss you. Those are the rules!”

John looks at Karkat and shrugs. The angrier of the two managers makes a frustrated noise and finally just grabs John’s face and lays one on him. It’s definitely longer than the one Nepeta got from John, but not by much. The moment they break apart, John falls into a fit of laughter, and Karkat looks like he wants to grab the bottle and smash it forcefully against the wall.

“Go on, spin it!” John nudges him, still grinning.

“THIS IS WHAT HELL IS LIKE,” Karkat proclaims as he reluctantly sets it spinning.

The universe must really enjoy laughing at Karkat, seeing as it lands on the Strider brother with the round shades—Dave, if you remember correctly. Your roommate literally starts wailing when the guy waggles his eyebrows and begins crawling over.

You actually are physically incapable of stopping your laughter as the Strider deploys only the most ironic romantic gestures possible, gazing deeply into the fuming Karkat’s eyes before throwing his arms dramatically around his neck and passionately capturing his lips. Karkat seems too stunned to respond for a moment, letting the blonde kiss him, until finally he gathers his wits and shoves him off.

John, who has been in stitches for pretty much the entire party, controls his body-shaking laughter enough to raise a hand for a high five, which Dave enthusiastically responds to with a fist bump before returning to his spot in the circle. Karkat’s entire face is red as a fire truck, and he looks about ready to jump out the window.

Dave lands on Vriska, which is a pretty weird match-up, but they both play along. Then Vriska’s spin points to Eridan, and everyone laughs as she makes a disgusted face.

“Awwwkward!” Nepeta giggles, and you remember that once upon a time, those two were a thing.

Eridan rolls his eyes and swats the air exaggeratedly, the effects of the alcohol showing in his motions. “Oh, come on Vriiiiiiiis. It’s not like you’ve never kissed me before.”

“No,” she agrees, “I was just hoping I’d never have to be subjected to that ever again.” Terezi begins shoving Vriska towards him with her foot, so Vriska groans and moves across the circle to him, where she presses her lips to his, her hand curving automatically around the back of his neck. He responds enthusiastically, hands moving up to cup her face, and despite her numerous protests, it’s the longest kiss yet. A few whoops and catcalls are made before they finally break apart, staring each other down until she backs up to her previous spot next to Terezi.

“He’s just as terrible as I remember,” she announces, and he casually flips her the finger.

You remind yourself that the weight in your stomach is most certainly not jealousy, because that would be absolutely fucking ridiculous. You lean over and lay a kiss on the top of Aradia’s head and run your fingers absently through her hair as she hums contentedly.

“You know, I thought we were supposed to shove ‘em in a closet,” remarks the boy Aradia was talking to earlier, and you’re surprised to note that he’s got an accent.

“No no, that’s seven minutes in heaven,” the older Strider (Dirk?) corrects him from his new spot at the kid’s side, and you may be drunk but you still take note of the way his arm is casually inching closer and closer to his buddy.

At the sound of this prospect, Vriska’s eyes light up, and she nudges Terezi, waggling her eyebrows. They have some sort of exchange that you don’t quite catch, but you know it can only mean trouble.

“Okay Eridan,” Vriska tells him, grinning mischievously. “It looks like tonight really is your lucky night. Whoever you land on gets thrown in that closet for seven minutes with you. That poor, poor person.”

Eridan waves off the tacked-on insult (a sure sign that he’s drunk, normally he’d throw a bitch fit) and leans over to spin. The bottle seems to go around and around for ages, and it takes you a moment to realize that it has stopped spinning and is pointing directly at you.

The two of you immediately and simultaneously begin to shout your refusals, much to the sadistic delight of everyone in the room. You’re starting to understand how Karkat must have felt.

“Nonono, it landed on Aradia, see,” Eridan protests, and it’s a valid attempt, considering she’s sitting at your feet, but it’s actually pointing just past her, as Tavros dutifully points out.

“No, this is just plain insanity, plus I have a girlfriend, I shouldn’t even be playing this game,” you babble, shaking your head, but Aradia totally betrays you and laughs, calling you a no-fun spoilsport.

“This is pure gold,” Vriska is cackling. “Besides, we all know that you two are just gonna beat each other up in there, I mean really.”

“Or, maybe this could even be a good thing!” Aradia suggests, eyes bright. “Maybe they’ll finally have a chance to talk and work out their differences!”

You give her a look that says, “E tu, Bruté?” but she just giggles and shrugs. Reluctantly, you look up across the circle at Eridan, who’s staring right at you. He looks like he might be sick.

Desperately, you look at Kanaya—she has always been the rational one, the voice of reason. Maybe she can change their minds. But she is so wrapped up in whatever she’s talking about with that flower-named chick that she’s not even involved in the circle, doesn’t even know what’s going on. You want to scream.

“Enough stalling, boys!” Terezi announces as she stands up. Roxy (that bitch) pulls Eridan to his feet (though she can barely stand on hers), and Terezi hauls you off the couch, and the two of you are being ushered to the closet.

And before you know it, you find yourself literally thrown into a closet with the one person at this party you were hoping to avoid, especially in this state, and oh god it is way too cramped in here and even when you sit with your back pressed against the wall you can still feel his presence even though it’s pitch black and you can’t actually see him, which is probably for the best you think, and okay he is definitely wasted this is not going to end well.

For a moment, there is silence, filled only with the sounds of your breathing. And then you can sense him coming closer, crawling over to you, and you realize that his protests were just an act and you don’t know what to do.

“Eridan, no,” you say, but he ignores you. Your knees are pulled up to your chest, maybe in some pathetic attempt to place a wall between him and you, but it doesn’t stop him from running his hand up your leg, and it shouldn’t affect you but it does, and you’d like to murder the asshole who invented alcohol.

“What’s the matter, Sol?” he whispers, and he probably thinks his voice is seductive, but it’s not. Not at all. Nope. Not even a little.

Oh, fuck. Who do you think you’re kidding.

“You can’t tell me you don’t want this,” he continues, leaning ever closer, his hand continuing to run along your leg. The other hand is flat against the wall next to your head, and you’re pinned.

“It’s not…not right,” you say, trying to sound confident and firm, but you don’t even believe yourself right now, and the soft chuckle he lets out indicates that he doesn’t either.

“That didn’t stop you last time,” he answers, the smell of alcohol from his breath telling you that his face is far too close to yours. “Or the time before that.”

He has a valid point, and your intoxicated brain can’t really construct a counter-argument. An urgent voice is yelling somewhere in a corner of your head, but the alcohol is telling it to shut up, go away, stop being logical, stop being right and settle for feeling good.

You weakly murmur, “Aradia…” and he is actually nuzzling against your neck right now, his nose gently brushing along your skin, and then it is replaced by his lips, which graze along the tender flesh as he replies.

“What about her?”

You know there is a very solid and rational response to that, but you just can’t find it right now, not while he’s doing these things, not while you’re drowning in these overwhelming sensations and this was the worst idea anyone’s ever had, what are you even supposed to do right now?

He moves up to your ear now, breathing hot against it, caressing it with his lips as he whispers, “Come on Sol, let’s play the game,” and something tells you that the game is a lot bigger than just seven minutes in heaven.

You make one last, feeble attempt, telling him, “You are the most incredible douche I have ever encountered,” and he takes this as a fucking invitation, positioning his face in front of yours.

“You are a god-awful asshole, and a fuckin’ tease at that,” he says matter-of-factly, and you wanna laugh, cause you’re the tease? But when you open your mouth to say this, he covers it with his own, and you do not have the self-control to push him away.

Instead, you pull him closer and just lose yourself, lose yourself in his scent, his hands on your face, the bizarre combined taste of beer and strawberry jello, the warmth of his body, the rush of adrenaline and feeling that you truly cannot comprehend, would not comprehend even if you weren’t three sheets to the wind.

But as much as you lose yourself, when your ears detect the sound of somebody approaching the closet, you dig down deep to the last remaining shreds of your willpower and shove him off of you so hard that he goes sprawling against the other wall, and he’s complaining loudly as Vriska opens the door and looks in on you guys.

“Figures,” she says in a mocking tone, while her head shakes in disappointment. “I bet you two assholes just spent the whole seven minutes tossing insults at each other. Laaaame!”

Eridan is still trying to collect himself as you put on a big show of nodding and make some half-assed comment about “thanks for throwing me in here with this piece of shit, more like seven minutes in hell, am I right,” and Terezi seems to find this funny as you two pick yourselves up and get the fuck out of there. No one seems to notice the way his hair is sticking up at funny angles, or the way that your shirt is more wrinkled than it should be.

 

Sollux: Try to ignore the guilt.

It’s not even a big deal, right? It didn’t mean anything.

You tell yourself this as you’re walking down the busy sidewalk hand in hand with your girlfriend, who is looking as radiant as ever today. She’s bundled up in a long maroon coat with matching cream-colored scarf and gloves, her long auburn hair spilling down her back in ringlets, and when she turns to smile at you, you silently wonder what is wrong with yourself.

She’s walking quickly, just ahead of you, pulling you along in the direction of Central Park. The date was her idea, and actually, now that you think of it, you can’t remember the last time you were the one to ask her. Another quick stab of guilt appears, which intensifies when your mind briefly wanders to Friday night, but you shake it off, banishing the thought to the dark recesses of your mind as you allow yourself to be led.

“—and my professor said we’ll be going on an excursion to Belize, to work with Mayan ruins!” you hear her say as you tune in to her excited chattering.

“That sounds awesome, AA,” you tell her, hoping your voice sounds appropriately enthusiastic. She nods, grinning, and proceeds to tell you the details of the trip. You try really hard to pay attention, you really do. But then a flash of purple in dark hair catches your eye, and you can’t help but think of…

Nope. Nope, nope, shut up, stop that right now. Back to Aradia, back to Aradia…

“They even offer scholarships for it, so if I get accepted, I might not even have to pay! Which would be fantastic, of course, Dad is still having trouble at work and I hate to be a burden…”

You continue to nod in the right places as she takes you to Wollman Rink, which is bustling with people making the best of their Sunday afternoon. Despite the fact that the date was her idea, you try to retain your dignity by insisting on paying for her, which she lets you do after a brief bout of protesting. It’s unreasonably pricey, especially with the skate rentals on top of it, but hey, that’s New York City for you.

By the time you two have sat down and laced up your skates, she has finished her explanation. You get to your feet, wobbling slightly on the unsteady blades, and she does the same, but she seems to have a bit more trouble keeping her balance and she falls into you, laughing as she grabs your arm to keep herself standing.

You chuckle and help her upright, but the first thought that comes to mind is that she’s too short, the height difference is ridiculous, you’d prefer if she was taller. Closer to your height. So you could look right into those blue…er, brown eyes.

Clambering onto the ice is somewhat of a process, and you immediately throw your arms out, doing your best to not make a fool of yourself. It’s been far too long since you’ve been ice-skating, and you need to work yourself into it. Aradia seems to have an easier time of falling into the rhythm of it, and she sort of pulls you along with her gloved hand for a while until you start to feel more confident on your feet.

The ice is crowded, but there’s a good amount of room, and it’s certainly not as bad as the one at Rockafeller Center. You find yourself people watching, observing the array of skaters: the kids and their parents, the couples, the groups of friends. You start to play a game, picking out the tourists from the native New Yorkers, and Aradia joins you after you point one out.

“Definitely tourists,” she says, nodding at an average-looking family.

“What makes you say that?” you ask, eyeing them critically. They look like any old family, two parents and two young kids, and there’s no touristy giveaways, no cameras or tacky I<3NY shirts, nothing that sets them apart from a family of city dwellers.

“Look at the way they’re dressed! Totally European.” She says this like it’s a totally obvious observation.

Seriously? You look them over again, and then look at her. “AA, they look like any other New Yorkers. No way.” Since when did she notice things like fashion, anyway? She’s the kind of girl who tends to care more about practically than what’s “in”.

And yet, when you skate past them, inconspicuously listening in on them, they’re chattering excitedly in some language that sounds Dutch.

“Aha!” Aradia exclaims, elbowing you lightly in the side a few times. “I knew it!”

Normally you might chuckle, shake your head and ruffle her hair or make some sort of teasing remark about how she probably cheated by overhearing them earlier and then give her a kiss on the cheek for being such a clever detective. But instead, you feel vaguely resentful towards her for being right. You don’t allow yourself to explore that resentment.

Aradia doesn’t seem to notice, and she laughs at the grumpy grumbling and squeezes your hand.

“So how are your classes?” she asks, astutely changing the subject by switching to a safe, standard question.

A shrug, a slight pause. “Oh, you know. Same old, same old.” And that’s really all there is to say on the matter, so the conversation comes to a halt.

You have never really been a stellar conversationalist, so momentary lapses are common. They’ve never really been awkward before, just a companionable pause that always feels nice, relaxing even. So why do you feel so uncomfortable right now?

You’re searching for a way to break silence, to fill that void, but nothing’s coming to mind, and there’s only so many rounds you can make on the rink before you’ve seen everybody on it at least once, so that game goes out the window. The longer it stretches, the more irritated you feel, until finally you bring up the one topic you wanted to avoid because it’s the only thing you can think of to say.

“Still having fun with the band?”

Aradia lights up at the mention of it, nodding enthusiastically. “Oh yeah, definitely! I love performing; it’s such a great feeling. And it’s so nice working with such talented people.”

Not a bad word to say. You’re glad she’s enjoying herself, of course, but this stupid goddamn band is honestly the last thing you want to think about right now. Shame, because you really did enjoy being a part of its inner circle, but it feels like all of that’s gone up in flames ever since…well, that shit. But because AA’s in now, you’ve got no excuse to not be involved, and all of this is just giving you a major headache.

“Eridan taught me a new song this week, we’re gonna try it out at the next show. I hope I can pull it off, I mean, he’s done it plenty of times before, and I don’t wanna seem like the fumbling new kid, you know?”

You nod, trying not to cringe at the name you’ve been pushing away all day. “I’m sure you’ll be fine,” you say in what is hopefully a comforting tone of voice, though you’re not sure how well that was conveyed.

She smiles at you, giving your hand a tight squeeze, and you do your best to make yourself numb to the tight feeling in your chest, numb as the fingers in your free hand because you’re too stupid to wear gloves.

“Let’s get some hot chocolate,” you suggest, suddenly tired of going round and round the ice. She thinks this is a great plan, and you skate over to the exit, releasing her hand once you’ve reached it, and wobbling out to the concession stand.

The two of you find an unoccupied bench and sit, clutching your Styrofoam cups with both hands as the heat brings some life back to your fingers.

“You know, he’s really not that bad of a guy,” she says after a moment, bringing the cup to her lips and blowing at it in an attempt to cool it down a bit. You look at her, frowning slightly. “Eridan,” she clarifies. Oh. You try really hard not to react badly, but she can read your face far too well sometimes.

“I know, I know you don’t like him, and you guys fight a lot, but I honestly don’t see why! I mean, he can be a jerk sometimes, but I don’t think he means it. He’s always been pretty nice to me, at least!”

You give her a skeptical look. “Please. I honestly think he may be the most insufferable tool I’ve ever met.” Well, actually, when you stop and think about it, that position probably goes to Karkat’s older brother. But you fail to mention that part to Aradia. “You should’ve heard some of the things he was saying when we were debating replacing Feferi. He was totally opposed to you joining.”

“So don’t you think it says something that, despite his initial reluctance to me joining, he’s never shown any resentment towards me or been rude?” she argues. You open your mouth—and close it again, cause she actually has a pretty good point.

Then again, you think Aradia can sometimes be too nice for her own good. She tends to always look for the best in people, and you’re 95% certain that Eridan’s probably been a dick to her at least once or twice, and she’s casually forgetting about it in favor of his rare good qualities.

Not that you really want to think of any good qualities he might possess. At all. It’s certainly not helping your current mental state.

Aradia nudges you, knowing she’s gotten you there. “Maybe you should just try to open your mind and give him a chance,” she insists, and takes a sip of her hot chocolate.

You hold your cup between your hands and stare straight ahead, trying not to laugh bitterly. The universe sure does have a cruel sense of humor.

“You know there’s such a thing as being “too nice,” don’t you?” you tell her, trying to make it sound lighthearted.

She chuckles and shakes her head as she turns yours with a hand to your cheek. “No such thing,” she argues, and then she kisses you. It’s gentle. It’s…nice.

It’s totally unexciting. It’s boring.

Something sinks in the pit of your stomach as you realize this.

She removes one of your hands and gives it a squeeze. You try to smile, but it doesn’t quite reach your eyes. Not that she can see, because you can’t really look at her anyway.

Chapter Text

Eridan: Walk home.

The sky seems especially gray today as most of the group trudges out of Equius and Nepeta’s apartment building. Equius has the whole set-up—all of the equipment you could possibly need to rehearse, perform, even record. It’s the go-to place for band practice, and three minutes ago marked the end of one particularly grueling session.

You’d come directly from class, so on top of your already large and obnoxious guitar case, you have a messenger bag, an art portfolio, and a heavy stack of textbooks to worry about, which is why it comes as no surprise to you when you lose control of the books, and they go spilling out of your arms.

Luckily, it seems, you have a knight in shining armor who saves them from being splattered across the dirty sidewalk. Sollux snatches them from you with perhaps a bit more hostility than strictly necessary, but you’re more grateful that they didn’t get trampled. However, you can’t resist a teasing jab.

“If you’re tryin’ to curry favor by carryin’ my books for me, it’s real sweet, but it’s not gonna work.” You flash him your sweetest smile and bat your eyelashes like a schoolgirl, and Vriska lets out a loud snicker.

Sollux smiles back just as sweetly and casually veers in the direction of the slush-covered street. “If you please, miss, I could just as easily dump them here on the road. Golly, I bet fancy textbooks like these would be pretty expensive to replace.”

Vriska laughs openly at this, and Kanaya hides a smirk behind her hands. You scowl and whack Vriska on the shoulder, ignoring the protest that follows, and nod graciously at your personal book carrier. “By all means, sir. You may continue as you were.”

“Thank you for giving me permission to carry your books, ma’am,” Sollux says in a wonderful impression of somebody who’s actually grateful. It’s really hard not to laugh.

To be perfectly honest, you’re not sure why he’s anywhere near you. The last time either of you seriously interacted was the party, and, well. You didn’t drink quite enough to forget the events of that night, and you’re fairly certain he didn’t either. And yet here he is, snarking with you and holding your goddamn schoolbooks, and you have to wonder what the hell is going on in his mind.

You’re still not sure what’s going on in yours. But you can’t say you mind that Aradia happened to hang back at Equius and Nepeta’s place.

It’s not long before your building looms above you, and you prepare your goodbyes. Everyone else is supposed to keep going; they all live down the next block, and you’re hardly expecting any of them to help you get your shit upstairs, or anything. Except for the fact that Sollux stops next to you, your stack of textbooks still firmly grasped in his arms.

Up ahead, Karkat turns back to look at him, wondering if he’s coming. “Go on, I’ll catch up with you guys later. I’ve got some errands to run, and I might as well throw a bone to our poor, pitiful, prettyboy frontman while I’m at it.” He says it mockingly, and Karkat takes it with a shrug, tossing a wave over his shoulder as he keeps walking with Gamzee and Tavros. The girls say their goodbyes as well, and you stare at their retreating forms for a while, wondering what just happened.

Shaking it off, you give him a huff and sweep past him into the (deliciously warm) lobby, hitting the elevator button with your hip. Luckily, you don’t have to wait long, and the bronze doors slide open, letting you and the seemingly lost boy at your heels enter.

The ride up to the seventh floor seems painfully long, and it’s spent in silence, with not even some bad elevator music to fill the void. The walls and doors are lined with mirrors, and you stare straight ahead, mind racing with thoughts, but the one that keeps coming to mind is how strange the pair of you look standing next to each other.

It can’t be meaningless that he’s still here. There’s no way he’s simply being a nice guy and carrying your books up out of the kindness of his heart. One way or another, he’s made a decision about this whole fucked up mess, and you’re caught in the middle, waiting to see if he’ll rip you apart with his words, or in a different manner entirely.

The seventh floor is eerily quiet. Your neighbors aren’t blasting their shitty music, for which you are grateful. The hallway smells like stale cigarette smoke, and you will never get used to it. After unlocking and opening your door, you lean the guitar case and your art portfolio up against the wall and throw your bag onto the table. Your coat comes off, draped carefully over the chair for now. He hands you the books, which you dump next to the bag, and then you look at each other.

He’s standing in the doorway, and words aren’t necessary because body language says it all. The decision he made is clear. He takes a step forward, shuts the door behind him. Shrugs his jacket off, tosses it carelessly to the side, cause he’s staying.

You’re not sure who moves first, but suddenly his hands are on your waist and your arms are curling around his back as your lips meet in a forceful kiss. He presses up against you, pushing forward until your back is pressed up against the wall, and damn if this doesn’t feel all too familiar.

You don’t really have the focus to follow this train of thought, however, as your attention is entirely taken by his hot breath on your face, the rough hands gripping your sides as he catches your lower lip between his own and sucks.

You arch your back into his touch as one of your hands runs up to the back of his neck, where you thread your fingers through his hair and tug lightly. He pulls away from your lip, prompting a low hiss as he scrapes his teeth along it. You can feel him smirking as his tongue darts out to trace the outline of your mouth. You open willingly, leaning forward to grant him access, but he seems to have other plans.

His tongue continues past your mouth, running hot and hard up your jawline where he latches onto your earlobe and nips. The sound of his heavy breathing mixed with the warm air and the brushing of skin on skin is almost too much to bear.

He doesn’t stay for long, impatiently continuing his path down your jaw to your neck, so you lean your head against the wall even as you press your body forward and flush against his. One hand pulls at his hair with increasing force, while the other slides down his back, scraping your nails through the fabric of his shirt. Suddenly, you feel the overwhelming desire to remove the extra layer.

And when he presses a trail of hard kisses into the lines of your neck, you think about how lucky it is that you’ve got a penchant for wearing scarves.

He presses his thigh between your legs, and there is no helping the sound that escapes your mouth. Without even bothering to detach, you steer him in the direction of the bedroom.

For the first time since Fef moved out, you feel truly grateful that you live alone. Still, you kick the door shut behind you. You guide him forward, lips never parting until the back of his legs hit the bed. He falls backwards, bringing you tumbling down on top of him.

He pulls himself further up until his legs are no longer hanging off. You follow him, pulling his shirt up and leaving a trail of kisses along his stomach and his chest. You pause at his collarbone and let the shirt slide down a bit, leaving it there for now as you kiss his neck.

You’re so hard that it hurts as you feel the strain against the zipper of your too-skinny jeans. He can definitely feel it, but it’s fine because you can feel his dick pressing into your thigh.

“My, my, Sol,” you breathe into his ear, smirking. “You seem awfully excited by a guy you can’t stand.”

“You say that like I’m the only one,” is his laboured response. Without warning he bucks up into you, prompting a gasp of pleasure.

He seems far too pleased with himself so you bite down on his earlobe, drawing out a hiss. “Two can play that game,” you promise, lips brushing over the shell of his ear as you speak. You grind your hips down into his; he’s trying to restrain himself but there’s no denying his heavy breathing.

You’re impatient, too impatient; you want him now. You reach down to dip your hand teasingly below the hem of his jeans and distract him with your mouth as your fingers unbutton and unzip, then thread through his beltloops and pull down.

His hard-on is straining through his boxers, and you palm him through them. This time he can’t stop himself from making a noise, especially when your hand sneaks underneath to take hold of him. He allows you just a few firm strokes before he’s ripping your hand away and flipping you over with unexpected force, turning the tables and pinning you down instead.

You hardly have a chance to catch your breath before he’s roughly attacking your mouth, his fingers pulling at your button, your zipper, your jeans, then he goes one step further and removes the final layer. You manage to hook your thumbs under the elastic and shove it down, so now you’re both fully exposed. When he presses his hips into yours, you both let out a moan at the sensation.

One of his hands is gripping the side of your head as he continues to kiss you heatedly, while the other is wrapping around his length. He's stroking it up against yours, grasping both of you now and pumping you together. As much as you want to preserve your pride, not let him see how much he’s getting to you, it's just impossible to hold back the noises you’re making against his mouth, hips bucking into his, aching for more.

It’s been so long, too long since any hand other than your own has touched you this way, and you try to hold out, try to last as long as possible. But you can’t last any longer, and you’re gone before you know it, arching your back and releasing with a half-stifled cry as he keeps going strong. He comes a minute later, grunting into the damp skin of your neck as you try to catch your breath, your head spinning.

You feel yourself coming down from your cloud as Sollux breathes deep and tries to gather his bearings. He rolls off of you and pushes himself into an upright position, sitting now on the edge of the bed.

Suddenly you feel overexposed, so you gingerly pull your boxers back up, not minding the mess on your thighs and stomach—you were planning on doing laundry later anyway.

You can’t see his face, but you can tell from the set of his shoulders how he’s feeling. Personally, you’re caught somewhere between “I can’t believe that just happened” and “I hope it happens again sometime,” although you’re not sure if he’s suddenly rethinking his decision to follow you up here.

He clears his throat. “I should…yeah.” He stands, pulls up his pants, shuffles over to the bathroom. You just lay there, unmoving, listening to the sound of water running from the sink. Then it stops, and he comes out, looking slightly more put together.

You’re half expecting him to walk out without saying anything, but he actually stops and looks up at you. “See you at the show tomorrow,” he says, and you swear you can see the hint of a smirk lingering in the corner of his mouth. Then he’s gone, slipping out of your bedroom, and a moment later you can hear the front door shut as well. You still don’t move, just lie still and stare up at the ceiling, wondering what the fuck is going on in your life.

That was all he needed to say, really. There may have been some regret in his shoulders, but that tiny little smirk confirmed it. This isn’t over. It’s going to keep happening. No feelings involved, of course. No strings attached. Just…this. And as you lay there, remembering the feeling of his hands, his body…

Yeah, you think you’ll be okay with that.

 

Eridan: Be really okay with that.

You’re not sure exactly how it happened. All you know is that suddenly, you and Sollux find yourselves alone together quite often, and the activities you partake in are far from innocent.

One of you will make an excuse, or maybe both of you. Sollux will pull you aside, insisting there’s something wrong with your equipment, and you’ll return a few minutes later, adjusting your scarf over your skewed collar. You’ll tell everyone you need a bathroom break when he just so happened to have left for one a minute earlier. You’ll stop by their apartment looking for Karkat and pretend to be surprised when you discover that he, Gamzee, and Tavros are all in class. He’ll stop by yours to drop off the book you happened to leave behind.

It’s sort of like an unspoken game. It’s never planned; always spontaneous, exciting, unexpected despite being expected. And the idea that you could be caught at any moment only makes it that much more thrilling.

As far as you’re aware, no one suspects a thing. Especially since the two of you have continued to act hostile in front of everyone else; in fact, the fire is almost even more intense now. You’re not sure how much of it is an act and how much is a legitimate, but you know that even when you’re alone together, you’d hardly describe it as “tender”.

Aradia has tried, on several occasions, to mediate. She says if you two could put aside your differences, you could be friends.

You tell her that this is a terrible plan.

Every now and then, when you look over at her, pouring her heart into her music with a rare sort of enthusiasm, laughing with Terezi and Tavros, getting excited over the smallest things…you feel a slight twinge of guilt.

It tends to disappear the next time Sollux shoves his tongue down your throat, though.

But now you’re sitting alone in one of the college’s practice rooms with her, and every time she turns her warm smile on you, you feel just a little bit worse. Especially since the last time you were in this practice room was with Sol, and you’d turned the tables and pinned him against the wall, and he was melting under your hands…

You quickly shake the thought away, your gaze flickering nervously over to her. She’s obliviously plucking at her guitar strings, seemingly without a care in the world.

It was your idea, actually. Being here. You and Fef used to write songs together all the time, and you figured it was about time that you and Aradia collaborated on something new.

“So how does this sound?” you ask, playing a few notes and singing the line you just jotted down.

She nods and says, “Yeah, yeah, I like it. And what if I answer it with this,” and she’s adding a response, in the same sort of back and forth style that you and Fef had always written in, but it still retains some unique aspect of Aradia.

“It sounds great,” you tell her, and it really does. She’s a natural. “Have you done this sort a’ thing before?”

She shrugs, somewhat modestly. “Oh, you know. Messed around in high school with songwriting. But it was never really something I took seriously. I mostly just like to sing.”

You nod. “Well, you should keep it up. You’ve got a real knack for it,” you say honestly. There’s always room for improvement, of course, and you still consider yourself better, but you magnanimously keep this part to yourself.

Aradia smiles at you, and she’s got one of the sweetest smiles you’ve ever seen, and you can’t really bear to look at it cause you don’t really deserve it from her.

“Okay, so I think the next part should be you again, and it should tie back to your first section. Like, you’re not even answering my part, cause mine was more of a snarky aside, and you’ve got this big ego and just keep going with your own thoughts.” She’s referring, of course, to the “you” that is the character in the song, not necessarily you, but it sounds suspiciously close to something like Eridan Ampora. 

Resisting the urge to make a comment about that, because you know she didn't mean it that way (but you totally take it personally anyway, and it makes you feel a smidgen less guilty), you start scribbling down some potential lyrics and show them to her. She takes the pad and crosses out two words, replacing them with better ones, and you hum a note of approval when you take it back.

Despite your justifiable discomfort around her, the atmosphere is relatively pleasant between you. Maybe it’s because you’re a damn good actor, or maybe it’s because she’s oblivious as hell to the whole thing, or maybe it’s both, but you’re not really complaining. You’ve already had enough awkward to fill a lifetime, and she’s just got this calm air about her that’s sort of nice.

But then you make a simple offhanded comment, a silly little comment relating to the song, and her response makes you take pause.

“It’s the worst, when you feel things goin' downhill like this,” is what you said.

She says, “Yeah. It’s the worst," and the look on her face makes your stomach sink. You’re suddenly wondering exactly how oblivious she is.

After blinking at her for a few seconds, you grab your songwriting book and flip to a new page, a page with just three lines messily scrawled on it, and you add two more:

You’re captivating, while evading
all the questions I have for you, like:
What exactly makes you tick?

When the guilt sets in, tell me,
what are we going to do?

“What’s that?” she asks, and you look up at her, hastily snapping the book closed.

“Oh, nothing important,” you say, probably a little too quickly. She stares at you for a moment, and then she shrugs and turns back to her guitar.

You convince your brain to stop, stop right now, and think instead about how there’s no way you could give up what you’re getting right now, no matter how many times those soft brown eyes smile at you.

Chapter Text

Eridan: Try not to care too much.

You’re lying on your back, the sheets a tangled mess beneath you, trying to regulate your breathing. He’s half on top of you, half next to you, his face pressed into your shoulder as your heart rates head in a direction approaching normal.

You lie still, not moving, not untangling your legs from his, not doing anything but breathing. You’re counting down to the moment where he’ll pick himself up, slip out of the bed and into his clothes, escaping the room as quietly as possible even though you both know it doesn’t make a difference how quiet he is.

But it doesn’t happen.

He shifts until he is more next to you than on top, and then he curls around you. He nudges with his nose, indicating that you should shift your position as well. For a moment, you’re too surprised to move, but eventually do, turning onto your side and sliding down a bit so that your back is pressed up against his chest.

There’s something wonderful about the feeling of his skin on yours, damp and warm, and the feeling of the heat passing from his body into you. He nuzzles his face into the back of your neck and drapes an arm over your waist, and you wanna ask him if he’s feeling alright because there is nothing usual about this, but you’re afraid to speak because words might just spoil the moment.

Instead, you concentrate on the warm breath on your neck, the way his thumb is casually running along your side, the feeling in your gut that is suspiciously reminiscent of butterflies.

But the silence is too much, and you can’t ignore the pounding in your chest (which you know he can feel, you just know it), so you say, “Sol…” but can’t find the words that are supposed to follow it.

Sollux shakes his head, you can feel it, and murmurs against your skin: “Go to sleep, Eridan.”

So you do.

 

Some people say it hits you hard, like a ton of bricks. Or maybe it’s a lightning bolt, coming from out of the blue. There’s probably a million different clichés for that moment when you’re struck by it, the stunning revelation that changes everything.

In your opinion, it feels a lot more like drowning.

It comes slowly, painfully. There is no single moment that defines what takes hold of you. Rather, it is a compilation of tiny pieces, miniscule tugs of undertow, each of which pulls you just a bit deeper below the surface.

It’s the rare occasions when he smiles.
It’s the delicate times when the roughness of his teeth is replaced by the soft brushing of his lips.
It’s the instance when he whispers your actual name, not just the abbreviation, and the breath catches in your throat.
It’s the cold ache in your chest when you roll over to discover an empty bed.

You can feel it happening, bit by bit, waves crashing upon waves, and it’s a gradual descent but there’s nothing that can be done, no amount of flailing your arms or kicking your feet will bring you back up to the surface.

And something’s changed with him too, definitely, but you’ve never met somebody this hard to read in your life.

Just keep telling yourself not to get your hopes up, because there’s no way he’s being pulled under with you. He’s in a different ocean entirely, leaving you stranded out in the open by yourself, with no life preserver to latch onto.

So for now, you curl up on your big (empty) couch in your cold (empty) apartment and scribble some dumb words in an old songwriting notebook:

I hope to god I mean a little more
than the sounds that escape your tired four AM
lips

oh, how I wish I meant a little more
than a symphony of heavy breathing and the friction of
hips

 

 

Time passes, and he changes. It’s gradual, barely noticeable at first, but it happens. There’s something new in the way he looks at you, though you can’t quite place it. There’s something different in his voice when he speaks to you, though it’s unidentifiable. And when he touches you, there is just as much need and want and desire as usual, but he’s…gentler.

He’s always gone in the morning. But now, he doesn’t leave right away. He stays, often wrapped around you in some way, and waits for you to fall asleep. And for a moment, you can almost pretend you’re wanted. You wonder if maybe he does it because his conscience has caught up with him. But then again, if it had, he would never be there in the first place.

Even the fights you have in front of the others have died out. The harsh words feel duller, the spats become less and less frequent, and when they do happen, they feel staged; put on for the sake of your friends, not for yourselves.

But nothing compares to the night that Karkat dragged everyone to a club. The night Sollux danced with Aradia, and you danced with the perpetually hammered girl from TT, and it felt wrong, so wrong; she was too small and her hair was too long and her curves were too exaggerated, and you know he agreed because you felt his eyes.

The night you drank too much like a damn fool and everything went fuzzy, and you nearly passed out on that dance floor, and he was the only shithead sober enough to drag your drunk ass home. The night you came to in your bedroom and tried to throw yourself on him, and you were so eager and willing, but he gently pried you away and tucked you safely beneath the covers.

The night he slept next to you and didn’t leave, the night he stayed to make sure you were okay, to make sure you didn’t choke on your own vomit, to make sure you were safe.

You know that he stayed, because that night was last night, and you’re staring at him right now, eyes trying to blink the sleep away. He’s watching with an unreadable expression, but there’s almost definitely a trace of amusement there.

“Well good morning, sunshine. Did you get enough beauty sleep?”

There’s the same old snark in his voice when he says this, but you’re fairly certain he doesn’t mean it to be nasty. You can’t be sure, however, because it feels like the entire drumline of your old high school marching band just played an impressive solo on your head. With a loud groan, you squeeze your eyes shut and reach out to swat him, flailing your hand around and half-heartedly hoping it reaches its target. It falls about a foot short, and you give up, groaning again.

“What’s that? Open the curtains? Sure, no problem!” he continues in a cheery voice, and you hear the heavy purple drapes behind your bed being drawn apart, and suddenly the unholy golden light of god is bearing down on you, burning holes in your eyelids, and you let out some sort of half-human screech and bury your face in a pillow.

“Jesus fuck Sol, you’re a fuckin’ monster,” is what you say next, but it’s muffled by the pillow, so chances are good that he didn’t understand. He chuckles anyway, the douchebag, and pats you comfortingly on the back.

“Don’t worry, princess. I know just the trick to cure your affliction.”

You don’t dignify this with a response, choosing instead to leave your face smooshed against its pillow and make incoherent grumbling noises.

“Oh come on, trust me. I know how to deal with this shit. The hangover doctor is in, and will get you on your feet in no time,” he promises, coming around to your side and tugging the deliciously warm comforter off, much to your displeasure.

“That’s a funny joke,” you mutter, picking your head up with a whine and pushing yourself up from belly-down to sitting back on your legs. Upon doing so, you simply blink for a moment or two, rubbing at your eyes and trying to gather your bearings, which is a bit difficult with the pounding ache in your head and the still-too-bright light shining through the window.

Sollux chuckles somewhere behind you. “I’ll be in the kitchen, when your highness feels ready to join me.”

The words register once he leaves, and you go back to wondering why the hell he’s still here. Looking down, you find yourself in your favorite pair of grey sweatpants and a plain t-shirt and realize that he must’ve changed you out of your (absolutely dashing) clubbing outfit. It’s hanging neatly over your desk chair; your tightest pair of black jeans and an aqua blue button up with a black vest. You’re glad to see that it wasn’t discarded on the floor or, worse, slept in—probably its fate if Sol hadn’t been around. In any case, you certainly don’t remember him undressing you.

With a heavy sigh, you force yourself off the bed and into the bathroom, where you spend a moment or two lamenting your wreck of a reflection, tugging uselessly at the mess of black and purple on top of your head. There’s literally nothing that can salvage this disastrous look, and your vanity is strongly urging you to stay locked in the bathroom ‘til Sol leaves, but you hurt too much to listen. All you can hope to accomplish is rinsing this gross taste out of your mouth.

Once the best fuzzy slippers are donned, you shuffle into the kitchen, where you blink for a minute or two because either Sollux is actually standing in front of the stove making scrambled eggs and bacon or you’re still drunk.

He looks up with a mischievous smile, seemingly enjoying the confused look on your face, and gestures to the breakfast bar, where there is a tall glass of orange juice waiting. You head around to the other side of it and clamber up onto a barstool, looking apprehensively at the orange juice.

“Holdin’ out on the coffee?”

Sol shakes his head, his back to you as he tends to the eggs. “Makes it worse. OJ helps.”

You look back and forth between him and the glass a few times before shrugging and taking a sip. It washes the last of that gross taste out of your mouth, so that’s nice, at least.

“So, since when are you some kind a’ master chef?” you ask, watching him from behind. Your gaze may or may not stray downwards once or twice.

He looks over his shoulder and fixes you with one of his famous smirks. “There’s a lot you don’t know about me, ED,” and the truth of that statement is staggering.

Maybe it’s the hangover messing with your mind, but your response comes as a surprise even to yourself: “Well, maybe I should know.”

He doesn’t turn around, so you don’t see his reaction. You just broke one of the cardinal rules that exist between you two. Then again, he’s probably breaking a bigger one by virtue of the fact that he’s still here…and cooking you breakfast.

“Maybe I’ll grace you with some delicious nuggets about myself later, if I’m feeling generous,” he says drily after a moment.

“Please, Sol,” you snort, “I am most definitely not craving your nuggets.”

He lets out a short bark of laughter at this, and if you could see his face, he’d probably be giving you some sort of look. “No use denying, it’s obvious you are,” he parries.

You answer with an affronted humph and take another sip of orange juice. “In your dreams,” is all you can come up with. Hey, you’ve only got half a functioning brain right now, that’s totally a valid excuse.

Sollux snorts as he dumps most of the eggs and bacon on one plate, and whatever’s left on another. "My dreams are way more exciting than that, thank you very much." He grabs two forks and carries the plates over, setting the bigger one in front of you.

It’s a bit strange that he seems to know his way around your kitchen, until you remember that he and Fef used to hang out. Definitely a weird realization, especially cause it’s been a while since she’s crossed your mind.

You're too tired to even bother responding, choosing instead to just dig into the greasiest plate of food you’ve ever experienced.

“Orange juice and greasy food,” the self-proclaimed hangover doctor tells you through a mouthful of eggs. “Works every time.” He’s leaning against the counter across from you, apparently too cool for stools.

“And where is your scientific evidence?” you ask skeptically.

“The vitamin C in the OJ replenishes your depleted vitamins, and the protein in the eggs plus the fat in the grease gives you energy to get your body working again.” He says this very knowledgeably, like he’s had this argument before.

But it’s total bullshit, and you tell him so. “That’s total bullshit, dumbass.”

He shakes his head and makes a shushing motion as he nudges the glass of orange juice closer. “Just believe in the magic of the hangover breakfast.”

“Okay, now you’re just antagonizin’ me,” you scowl, even as you proceed to take another sip—just to wash down the eggs, of course. “You know I hate that magic shit.”

He quirks an eyebrow, and he’s got no right lookin’ that smug. “I don’t know that that’s a thing that I know.”

After taking a moment to process that sentence, you realize he’s got a point, and you think about his previous comment about not knowing him very well. So you answer, “My earlier response still stands.”

For some reason, this is amusing to him. “Are you really that desperate to know more about me?” he questions. “Gosh ED, I’m flattered.”

You roll your eyes and flick a bit of egg at him with your fork. “Just curious to know how deep the douchebaggery goes.”

“Ha. You’re hardly one to be talking about douchebaggery,” he laughs. Then he puts his fork down and rests his chin in his hand, looking you over with a thoughtful expression, and you feel a bit uncomfortable under his scrutiny, especially given the horrendous state you’re in currently.

“How about this. You can ask me any three questions, and I’ll answer them honestly, as long as I get to ask you any three questions in return. Got it?”

Once you finish chewing and swallowing a piece of bacon, you nod and reply: “Sounds fair. Who gets to start?”

“I do, because it was my idea,” he says. You open your mouth to protest, but he plows straight into his first question. “So do you have any siblings?”

It’s a fairly generic question to start off with, and you’re relieved that he didn’t go with something tougher. Still, you hesitate slightly before answering. “Nope. Just me. Don’t even have any cousins, really.”

He nods, like he was expecting this answer. “Not really surprising. You give off that whole “spoiled only child” vibe.”

You scowl a bit at that. “Yeah, well. Spoiled, sure. If by “spoiled” you mean they buy me everything, because they think material goods are enough to shut me up and get me off their chests so they don’t have to deal with me. They’d rather spend their time at their fancy fuckin’ country clubs and flyin’ around in their fancy fuckin’ private jets than give two shits ‘bout their…their only son.”

Sollux seems taken aback. “Ouch. Sorry, I didn’t know.”

“Of course you didn’t, dumbass. That’s the point of the game,” you retort, shrugging it off. “My turn now?” He nods, so you think for a moment and decide to play it safe by going along the same sort of track. “Tell me something about your childhood.”

“That’s not a question, idiot,” he deadpans.

“Oh shut up, same difference,” you wave him off. “Answer it anyway.”

“Jeez, so demanding,” he complains, pretending to be annoyed. “Okay, fine. When I was a kid, I spent one summer on my uncle’s farm. He was really big into beekeeping, which sounds like such a lame thing to be excited about now, but to my little kid brain, it was the coolest thing in the world. I got to put on this absurd white suit that made me look like some kind of alien astronaut and play with hundreds of bugs; it was like every little boy’s dream. Not to mention, there was nothing quite like the fresh honey we got out of it.”

The smile on his face as he describes it is different than any you’ve seen from him before, and you’re loath to admit that it may have caused a slight stirring in your chest.

“I was obsessed with bees for a while, after that. Got novelty yellow bee sheets for my bed and everything, heh. But, you know. Like all kid phases, I grew out of it.” He shrugs, looking a bit sheepish, and you realize that you’re smiling, so you quickly busy your mouth with another long sip of orange juice.

“You mean you don’t still have those sheets?” you joke as you go for some more bacon. Its apparent healing qualities haven’t kicked in yet, unfortunately, but you’ll give it a little while to settle before you scold him for giving you a bullshit cure.

“Hey, they were pretty sick sheets,” he protests. “No need to be jealous, it’s unbecoming on you.”

“Oh yes, you’ve got me. I am beyond jealous a’ your childish novelty bumblebee sheets, absolutely. I’d give anythin’ to have those delightfully yellow rags coverin’ my person rather than the angel-soft 1800 thread count sheets I’ve got now.”

You’re entering potentially dangerous territory here, talking about sheets. Luckily, he deflects it with a casual quip: “Who even says things like, ‘coverin’ my person?’”

“There’s nothing wrong with my way a’ speakin’, you twat,” you bite back. His infuriating smirk has returned, so you’re actually glad when he decides to move forward and take his turn.

“So what was your most embarrassing moment?” he asks with a sly grin.

“Oh, come on. You gotta be kiddin’ me,” you groan, head slumping down into your hands. “That’s just not fair.”

“Sure it is! I did say any three questions, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, but that’s just cruel,” you complain. He doesn’t answer, just looks at you expectantly, so you sigh and scrub at your eyes. “Okay, okay.” There are plenty of moments in your life that would qualify, unfortunately (no one would really be surprised to hear that), but you really don’t feel like sharing them with Sol, so you decide to play it safe and go with something he already knows about.

“Probably pourin’ my guts out on stage for Fef like a chump,” you tell him. “It was so obvious what I was goin’ for, even if I never said it flat out, so everyone totally knew. Not only did I get rejected by her, which is bad enough as it is, but all our fans know it too, seein’ as she left a week later.”

Sollux is scrutinizing you again; it would be really fucking great if you could see what he was thinking. “It wasn’t that bad,” he says in a half-assed attempt to be nice or something. You give him a flat look as if to say you’re kidding, right. “Okay fine, it was pretty bad,” he concedes.

“It was fuckin’ awful,” you whine. “I’m never doin’ anything like that again.”

“Do you make it a habit to perform dramatic confessions of love at all of your concerts?” he asks with a chuckle.

“Oh, hush, you.”

“Make me,” he taunts, leaning forward over the counter.

You smirk, because you know exactly how to shut him up, but now is hardly the time for that sort of thing. “Maybe later,” you grin. It’s enough to stop him, as he’d apparently forgotten about the implications there.

“Your turn,” he says, quickly changing the subject, and you have to hold back a laugh.

“So what do you do when you’re not locked in your room bein’ the world’s biggest computer nerd?”

He makes an offended humphing noise. “You mean besides selflessly taking care of drunken and hungover dickprinces?” You cross your arms and give him a look, and he gives it right back to you. “I do plenty of other things. I play video games, I go to class, I work my ass off helping your stupid band…”

“Hey!” you protest, and you are sorely tempted to chuck this piece of bacon at his face, except that it’s the last one and you’d rather eat it, so you ball up your napkin and throw that instead. “Make fun of me, I can take it. Make fun a’ my band, and that’s where I draw the line.” Your face is set in the most annoyed expression you can muster, but it’s really hard to stay mad at him when his eyes are doing that thing and the corner of his mouth is turned up just slightly.

“My sincerest apologies, your majesty,” he mocks, and you would punch him if his face wasn’t arranged so nicely.

“Right,” you scoff, trying to remain haughty. Your mouth twitches a bit, but you won’t give him the satisfaction of smiling, no way.

“So, while we’re on the subject of your music. What would you do with your life if you weren’t going to be a musician?” he asks, jumping into his final question.

Pretty boring for a last question, in your opinion. Then again, it could’ve been something totally humiliating or uncomfortable, so it’s not so bad. “Probably something else in the arts,” you answer after thinking for a bit. “I’ve got a sketchbook that I like to doodle in sometimes, and I’ve taken a few art classes, so that might be fun.”

You expected him to roll his eyes, call you a hipster or some shit like that. Instead, he says, “Can I see it?” First instinct tells you that he wants to see it so he can make fun of it, but he actually just looks genuinely curious. As unexpectedly nice as that is, you’d really rather not share; it’s kind of personal, and you’re afraid he wouldn’t understand.

“It’s crap, you don’t really wanna see it,” you deflect, and then continue with your answer before he can retaliate. “I also like photography, so there’s that. My folks bought me a really nice DSLR camera for Christmas, and I’ve been messin’ around with it a lot.”

“Are those photos off-limits too?” he asks, and you shrug.

“Maybe I’ll show you a few if I’m feelin’ kind,” you say.

“It would be an honor,” he declares snarkily. He is really asking for a good smacking, but you’re a nice person and keep your hands to yourself.

“Heck yeah it would,” you tell him proudly, and he snorts in amusement.

There’s a slight lull in the conversation as you finish the last of your orange juice and look down at your empty plate. Your head actually does feel better than when you woke up, and you feel like less of a zombie than before, but you’re not convinced that it was the breakfast—more likely, it was just time. Still, it was an absurdly nice gesture. Everything Sollux did was ridiculously, unusually nice, and you can’t help but wonder about it all.

“You still have one last question,” he prods.

You look up at him and ask it in a small voice before you lose your nerve.

“Why did you do all this for me, Sol?”

His eyes widen a bit, and he goes quiet, clearly caught off guard. After gathering his thoughts, he wipes the slight surprise and…something else off his face and replaces it with a casual shrug. “You’ve got a show tonight. Couldn’t have our lead singer out of commission, right?”

Oh. Of course. You nod, trying not to let the disappointment show. “Right, yeah.” It doesn’t occur to you that there is another lead singer that he should be taking care of instead. All you can think is how stupid you are for getting your hopes up, especially since you’ve known from the start that nothing more than what you have now could really happen between you two. “Well, thanks, and all.”

He nods quickly and takes your plate and glass along with his own, turning his back on you as he brings them to the sink and runs some water over them. “Sure, no problem.” It’s hard to hear the tone of his voice over the rush of the water.

“You don’t have to do that,” you remark. He looks over his shoulder, and you nod at the dishes he’s currently rinsing.

“It’s fine,” he answers, returning his attention to them. It takes under a minute to wipe them with a sponge and stick them in the dishwasher, which is what he does.
He turns the faucet off and dries his hands on his pants, speaking without looking at you.

“I really should be going, though.”

“Yeah, okay.”

He disappears into your bedroom, probably to get his things. Having woken up before you, he’d already been dressed and looking semi-presentable, so it was a matter of grabbing his jacket and checking to see if he had his phone and wallet.

The throbbing in your skull picks up a bit as you use the counter to push yourself up and walk into the hallway to see him out. He reappears after a minute and crosses to the front door, then stops to look at you, one hand on the knob.

“See you later then, Ampora.”

You stand there awkwardly, raising your hand in a weird sort of half-wave, and say, “Later, Captor.” And then he’s out the door, and you stand there for a moment, wondering what to do with yourself.

Sighing, you hug your arms to your chest and shuffle into your room. It’s fucking cold in here. Your toes dig into the white carpet and you stare at the bed, contemplating how nice it might be to hide under the covers forever and never leave. Then your gaze travels downward and a bit of green catches your eye, sticking out halfway under the bed. You never leave your clothes on the floor, so this warrants closer inspection.

Upon kneeling down next to it, you discover that it’s a dark green sweatshirt. You stare at it for a moment, blinking, cause you don’t own anything like it. Sollux must have forgotten it. You reach forward and pick it up, bringing it to your nose and inhaling. His scent washes over you, and it comes as a surprise how well you recognize it and how much it comforts you.

Maybe you’ll bring it to the show tonight and return it to him. Or maybe you’ll just curl up on your bed, wrapped inside of it, and pretend he’s there with you.

Chapter Text

Karkat: Pay your favorite punkemohipsterdouche lead singer a visit.

Yes, he’s definitely all of the above, but he’s honestly not that bad most of the time.

Poor guy gets a worse rap than he deserves, you think as you knock on his apartment door. Sure, he can drive you absolutely fucking crazy, but it’s pretty hard to find someone who doesn’t do that to you.

Besides, he’s pretty much the only friend you have who will watch your movies with you and not mock you for them.

He opens the door in comfortable sweats and a t-shirt, clearly expecting you and anticipating a day in. Frankly, it’s strange to see him looking this underdressed, but he obviously doesn’t feel the need to impress you. You’re not sure if you should take this as a compliment or an insult.

“Come in, Kar,” he says, swinging the door open wide and making a welcoming arm gesture. You oblige, kicking off your wet shoes because even though winter should technically be ending soon, someone seems to have forgotten to inform Mother Nature of this, and there’s dirty goddamn sludge everywhere you go.

“Hot chocolate?” he offers, shuffling over to the kitchen in fuzzy purple socks.

“Fuck yes,” you say as you shrug off your heavy coat. “This shitass winter is like that friend that no one likes who keeps showing up even when you didn't invite them cause they can't take a damn hint." Upon discarding the rest of your winter gear, you head immediately for his large, overstuffed couch and make yourself at home.

It’s really unfair that Eridan’s apartment has three less occupants than yours and is still bigger. But you suppose that’s what having rich parents gets you. Not that you’d know anything about that.

“What’d you bring over this time?” he calls over from his spot at the stove.

You rummage through your backpack and pull out two DVD cases. “Moulin Rouge and 27 Dresses,” you answer, looking them over.

“Shit,” he says, “can we watch 27 Dresses second? I’m gonna need somethin’ to cheer me up after sobbin’ my eyes out.”

“That’s probably for the best,” you acknowledge, laying the cases down on the coffee table. Of course, you would never admit to sobbing your eyes out at any of these movies, no matter how many times you actually have.

Eridan emerges from the kitchen a minute or two later, a steaming mug of hot chocolate in each hand. You gratefully accept yours as he settles down on the couch next to you, careful not to spill anything.

“So you know that blonde chick from TT?” you say without preamble. Eridan pulls his legs up on the couch and looks attentively at you, hungry for the gossip he knows you’re about to grace him with.

“The one that’s always drunk?” he asks.

“No, the other one, with the shorter hair. But don’t think I didn’t see you dancing with that other one at the club, we’re gonna address that later,” you inform him. He puts a hand up and opens his mouth to protest, but you plow ahead: “She was talking to Kanaya all night at Vriska and Terezi’s party, remember?”

He nods eagerly, looking like a kid in a candy shop. See, there’s another thing that’s not so bad about him. He can be downright endearing when he’s not being a total toolbag. Besides, who else could you talk to this stuff about? Besides Kanaya, but that’s kind of tough when she’s the subject of the gossip.

“Yeah, well they’ve been hanging out almost constantly ever since. Terezi says the girl’s practically moved in. And when she’s not around, Kanaya can’t put down her phone.”

Eridan quirks an eyebrow and leans in, definitely intrigued. “You think they’re a thing?”

“Pretty much everyone thinks they’re A Thing,” you tell him very knowledgably. “Apparently she left her scarf at their apartment one day, and Terezi later found it hidden under Kanaya’s pillow.”

“That’s precious.”

“Isn’t it? And everyone knows that’s such a couple-y thing to do, leaving your clothing behind for the other to have. It even smells like her, Terezi reports.”

Eridan looks down and fidgets with his mug, then clears his throat. “Right. Totally.”

He probably thinks he’s being subtle, but he’s totally not. You don’t question it, though. Most likely, he has something of Feferi’s that he refuses to let go of. It’s not like it could be anything else.

You ignore it and move on. “But you know the best part? Vriska’s insanely jealous.”

His eyebrows shoot up, and he leans even closer, clutching his hot chocolate to his chest. “You think? I mean, everyone knows that Kan used to have it bad for her, just think ‘a how ironic it’d be that Vris starts reciprocatin’ after she’s moved on…”

A wry grin splits your face. “I know, right?” You lean back and take a sip of your hot chocolate. It’s still a bit too hot. “Then again, she could just be jealous in the way that best friends get when a significant other takes up all their free time.”

He nods. “For Kan’s sake, it’d probably be easier if that was the case.”

“Oh yeah, definitely,” you agree. “And honestly, I think this girl will be good for her. Rose, her name was. They seem to be a good match.”

“Good,” Eridan nods approvingly. “Kan deserves somethin’ nice. As for Vris, I think it could go either way.”

You ball up a pillow and rest your arms on it, practically sinking back into the unfairly comfortable cushions. “Did she ever show any signs of digging chicks when you dated her?”

“Ugh,” he says, making a face. “Don’t remind me ‘a that shit. Those were dark and scary times for me. You think she’s controlling now? Try bein’ her boyfriend.”

“Fuck, I can imagine,” you acknowledge, shaking your head. “Noooo thank you.”

“But really, she’s the kinda girl who’d go make out with another girl just for the shock factor an’ to prove she’s a rebel or whatever. Who knows if she’s sincere about it.”

“True,” you nod. “Well, I guess we’ll just have to see how it pans out. Now, about that other blonde girl…”

Eridan shakes his head, leaning back now. “Seriously, let’s not get into that.”

“Oh, come on! She was all over you the other night. She’s pretty good looking, and she even has a decent personality, as far as I’ve seen. Why not give it a shot?”

He shrugs, looking embarrassed, and delays his response by taking a sip of his drink. “Rox is a nice girl, really, an’ she’s definitely cute, but…” He shrugs again, drumming his fingers on his mug and avoiding your gaze.

“Don’t be such a dumbass, Eridan,” you scold him. “You’re gonna have to move on from Feferi one day, and she seems like the perfect opportunity!”

“Fef?” He blinks for a moment, looking a bit lost. “I…right, Fef. Yeah, ‘a course.

The expression on his face isn’t quite the lovesick misery you’d expected upon saying her name. His brow furrows, and he looks sort of conflicted. You frown.

“Is there something else going on here that I don’t know about?” you ask slowly.

“What! Haha no!” he says a little too quickly, laughing nervously. “Nothin’ at all! My love life is the same as ever. Totally hopeless.” He nods for emphasis.

“Riiiight…” You nod as well. “I believe that like I believe that Equius will one day go on stage without a towel and emerge after the show as dry as he began. I believe that like I believe Nepeta will suddenly renounce her love of cats and become an animal hater. I believe that like I believe Tavros will finally gain the courage to march right up to—”

“Okay, okay, I get it,” Eridan cuts you off, smacking you on the arm. “I just…I’ve been havin’ some weird feelins lately, k?”

“Weird feelings about what? About who?” you press.

“Please don’t make me explain, I really can’t,” he says pleadingly.

You study him for a moment, eyes narrowed, then sigh and sit back. “Fine, whatever. I’ll get it out of you one day.”

“Just don’t go blabbin’ all ‘a this to Kan, alright?” he begs, and he’s giving you damn puppy dog look, his eyes all huge behind his glasses, and you roll yours.

“Yeah, yeah.” You’re a total liar and he knows it. Kanaya can get anything out of you. And Eridan’s weirder-than-usual behavior totally counts as a thing, now.

He groans and buries his face in one of the couch pillows, pulling his usual dramatics just for the hell of it. You roll your eyes, and in doing so, something catches your eye: a green hoodie draped across the arm of the unoccupied armchair. It would have been innocent enough…if you hadn’t been sharing a bedroom with a guy who happens to own a strikingly similar article of clothing.

“Is that Sollux’s hoodie?” you ask, narrowing your eyes.

Eridan freezes behind the pillow, not removing it from his face, and you imagine he might look like a deer in headlights, except that a moment later he pulls it away and looks at you with nothing but slight confusion. “What?”

“That,” you say, nodding in the direction of the chair.

He looks over at it and shrugs. “Could be. I found it backstage, figured it was one of ours but didn’t know whose, so I just took it home with me.”

“…Right. Well, I’m pretty sure it’s his. Want me to take it back for you?”

His head shakes a little too quickly. “Nah, it’s cool. I got it.” When you just stare at him, frowning, he laughs and adds, “Maybe I’ll mess with him a bit, make him gimme a good offer first or somethin’ before he can get it back.”

Of course. You shake your head, tell the stupid voice in your brain to shut up. “Jackass,” you tease, but you don’t stop him. To be honest, their rivalry can be pretty damn amusing, as long as they don’t get too nasty about it.

“So, wanna tell me what’s goin’ on between you an’ Ter?” he asks, smiling mischievously.

“Oooookay, time to watch some shitty movies!” you proclaim.

Eridan laughs. “Go put the movie in,” he tells you, nudging you with his foot.

“You put it in, lazy ass,” you retaliate, throwing your own pillow at his head. He sputters and tosses it right back at you, then gets up with a grumble, grabbing the case for Moulin Rouge.

“You’re lucky that I’m such a good host,” he sniffs.

“Yeah, right,” you laugh as he opens the case and puts the disc in the blu-ray player. Admittedly, his hot chocolate is fantastic. You’ll never tell him, though.

He ignores you and grabs the DVD remote before crashing back on the couch and curling up. On the back of the couch is a thick, fuzzy blanket, which he pulls down to drape across the two of you.

“Got the tissues all ready,” he says, indicating the box on the coffee table.

“Won’t be needing them,” you lie.

Two hours later you’re desperately scrubbing your face when a tissue is offered to you. You glare at him through blurry eyes, but when you see that he’s smiling at you through an equal amount of tears, your gaze softens and you accept the tissue, even laughing a little when he comments on how pathetic you both are.

He really isn’t that bad, you think.

 

Karkat: Pay your favorite lameasscodingdouche tech guy a visit.

Well, that’s not very hard to do, considering he’s your roommate.

He’s sitting at his computer when you burst into the room—gee, you’re so fucking surprised. “Sup KK,” he says, without even looking away from the screen. You stomp up behind him, and he continues to stare straight ahead until you drop a Wii controller into his lap.

“Get off your damn computer for once and play with me,” you command.

He blinks at you, his eyes adjusting behind his glasses. “Er…why?”

“Because I’m fucking bored, Gamzee and Tavros are out, there’s nothing else to do, and you’re gonna completely destroy your vision if you keep your eyes glued to that stupid computer screen for too much longer,” you snap.

“Right, because gluing them to the TV screen is so much healthier,” he scoffs.

You pull his computer chair backwards and glare at him. “Also, because I fucking said so.”

“Oh wow, I certainly can’t argue with that perfect logic,” he laughs, raising his hands in defense.

“Damn right you can’t,” you nod.

He gives you an amused look and grabs the controller off his lap, standing up and walking out into the living room. You follow, satisfied.

“Brawl?” he asks, collapsing onto the couch and kicking his feet up onto the coffee table.

“Duh,” you answer, leaning down and turning the Wii on. “I hope you’re ready to have your ass handed to you like a dude on Butler Island.”

“So does that make you my butler?” he asks, raising an eyebrow as you sit down next to him.

“Yes, I—well no, I mean, not like—I’m a butler in that I’ll be serving you your ass, but not—” you stumble, trying to gather your analogy while he smirks at you.

“Go make me a sandwich, butler,” he commands.

“Oh, shut up,” you growl, elbowing him in the side as he laughs.

The character select screen comes up, and Sollux goes for Samus. After some deliberation, you choose Metaknight.

“Oh, come on!” Sollux complains, selecting “random” for the stage. “Metaknight is so cheap.”

“Worried?” you taunt.

“Shaking in my boots,” he assures.

Five minutes later, you’re tossing your remote to the ground.

“You’re such a fucking cheater!” you accuse, cursing under your breath as he grins in victory.

“How do you even cheat in this game?” he protests, but you know he did it. You can see right through his smugness.

“Knowing you, you found a way!” you proclaim, pointing a finger at him.

He rolls his eyes, and you wanna slap that look off his face, but instead you grumble to yourself and pick the controller up off the ground, preparing for next round. You’ll get him this time.

“So I hung out with Eridan the other day,” you say, hoping that conversation might throw him off his game.

“Wow KK, you must really be a glutton for punishment,” he chuckles as he blasts you off the platform. You growl and manage to make it back up without falling to your doom.

“Fuck off, Captor,” you retaliate, catching him in a series of quick slashes. His damage percentage goes up a good chunk, and you feel momentarily satisfied.

“He’s got your sweatshirt,” you continue, opening an item box by chucking it at his head. He dodges, but you still manage to grab the smart bomb and the tomato.

Sollux takes a moment to respond, staring in concentration at the screen. “Why would ED have my sweatshirt?” he says finally, as you accidentally get caught in the smart bomb explosion.

Once you’ve finished cursing, you shoot an answer back with probably more force than necessary: “Says he found it backstage. Didn’t know it was yours. I offered to take it back, cause I’m such a good friend, but he wanted to hold it hostage and get something out of you for it. SHITFUCK.”

You throw your hands up in the air as you fall off the edge of the screen, losing one of your precious lives.

“Seriously? Wow,” Sollux laughs, shaking his head. “What a fuckin’ dickhead.”

Something about that sentence strikes you as off. You stop and look at him slowly as you appear back on the screen. “What was that?”

“I called him a fuckin’ dickhead,” your roommate repeats, still staring straight forward.

You continue to stare at him, the frown deepening on your face as you hear it again. “Say that word again?”

However, he takes your brief break in attention and uses the opportunity to push you off the platform again. “FUCKING—FUCKER! THAT WORD, YOU SHITWAD!”

“’Fucking’?” he questions, smugly taking the chance to glance at you, though he looks somewhat befuddled as well.

After you take a moment to count to five in your head and take a deep breath to calm yourself down, you shoot him a glare. “That’s not how you said it,” you insist.

“Sure it is,” he frowns.

“No, it’s not. You chopped the ‘g’ off the end of it.”

He looks at you for a long moment like you’re a crazy person, then shakes his head and looks back at the game. “I don’t even know what you’re going on about, KK. Stop trying to distract me,” he chides, dropping the topic as he grabs the magic freaking hammer of doom.

“GOD FUCKING DAMNIT.”

You hate playing video games with your roommate.

Chapter Text

Sollux: Be the only competent asshole in this place.

Okay, you guess that’s a bit of an exaggeration. This is Equius’ equipment after all, and the guy knows how to use it.

But they’d still be totally lost without you.

Arsenic Aquarium has put out one album and one EP so far. They were officially signed to a small label shortly after the EP, which was certainly exciting, but doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve made it. Plenty of bands get signed and then are left to be openers for their entire existence. But with Karkat for a manager, you have a feeling that’s not going to happen.

The first official studio album under the label is scheduled to be recorded and produced some time this summer, hopefully June. But it seems that no one can really wait that long. Everyone’s been on such a roll, there’s practically a new song every week, and they’re all itching to preserve them.

So you’re putting out a sort of unofficial EP, just a little thing recorded and produced in Equius and Nepeta’s loft that you’ll put up on the website and sell at shows but that won’t really be a big deal. It’s a way to burn some of the excess creative energy, and good practice for the real thing in June.

You’re messing with some of the settings on the computer, Karkat hovering over your shoulder and making comments every here and there. You generally ignore him, because he thinks he knows what he’s doing but he’s totally useless. When you’re ready, you spin the chair around and give the band a thumbs up.

It doesn’t look like the setup of a stage; more like everyone has their own little stations, all mixed together with the corresponding recording equipment. Not quite as great as a typical recording studio, but Equius makes the best of what he’s got, and with your help, it still turns out sounding pretty damn great.

For this song, Eridan is just playing the guitar part, while Aradia is just singing. She wrote this song fairly recently, and you can’t help but wonder at the somewhat bitter tone of it. Then again, Feferi had a tendency to pen angry lyrics that had nothing to do with her emotional state, so you don’t think much of it.

She starts to sing, and there’s this intensity about her that you appreciate. She’s really putting her heart and soul into this, and it’s impressive. And attractive.

Smiling faintly, your gaze moves around the room, silently observing everyone doing their own thing, before inevitably landing on Eridan. He’s got an equal but different sort of fervor about him, and several months ago you might have said he was trying too hard. Now, you’re not sure that’s a fair judgment.

He seems to feel you staring, because he glances up and makes eye contact. Normally he would have quickly looked away, a slight tint to his cheeks, but not now. Now, he holds your gaze, focusing that intensity on you, and there’s the most ridiculous flutter in the pit of your stomach. He smiles, and you can automatically feel the corners of your mouth lifting to match his.

You look away after a long moment, like shaking yourself out of a trance. Something about this feels very backwards. You try not to dwell on it for too long.

“So, how was that?” Eridan asks when they’ve finished the first run-through of the song.

You shrug and indicate so-so with your hand. “AA sounded ace, of course. VK, KN, and GZ were pretty solid. EQ actually found the perfect balance, for once. And ED, your playing was only half as shitty as it usually is.”

“An’ you’re twice as annoyin’ as usual, Sol,” he teases, flipping you off.

“Ouch. You wound me.” You place a hand over your heart, for emphasis. “I don’t know if I’ll ever recover from that stellar comeback.”

Eridan laughs and shakes his head. “Like you’re so much better.”

“I am,” you assure him confidently.

“Yeah? Well, go on, mister arrogance,” Eridan smirks, resting his free hand on his hip. “Hit me with your best shot.”

“I would…” you start, smirking right back at him, and then you shrug. “But nothing I could possibly say would do more damage than that horrendous scarf does.”

Someone lets out an “oooh, burn,” and a few chuckles. Nepeta scrawls something on the pad in her lap and holds it up to you—a 7 out of 10.

“Deduction for lack of originality, am I right, Nep?” Eridan notes, pointing at her, and she giggles and nods in agreement.

You huff and cross your arms. “It’s not exactly easy to come up with a perfect, original insult on the spot like that. You try.”

Eridan looks at you and screws up his face in concentration as he tries to find something to pick at. You’re dismayed to find how adorable it is.

“So is that the third time you’ve worn that bargain bin K-mart shirt this week, or the fourth?”

A few more laughs. Nepeta holds up a 7.5 this time.

“Only the second!” you protest. “And I got this perfectly respectable shirt at Old Navy, thank you very much,” you inform them all, looking down at the plain dark green t-shirt underneath your unzipped black hoodie.

Eridan quirks an eyebrow and gives you a Look. You return the gesture.

“You wish you were as fashionable as me, ED.”

Everyone laughs, realizing the irony of that statement. You’re pretty sure you couldn’t name a single designer, favoring your plain tees and hoodies and button ups, while Eridan struts about in the strangest combination of high-class fashion and the usual punk-rock-alternative-hipster-emo-scene-whatever crap, and still manages to pull it off unfairly well 99% of the time.

“So does someone want to explain to me where the real Eridan and Sollux went and who these fuckers are?” a gruff voice calls out.

You look over at Karkat, who’s watching both of you with raised eyebrows. Surprisingly, he doesn’t say much else, but you know what he’s getting at. It really didn’t even occur to you how different the two of you sound. The hostility is gone. Now, it just feels light, playful. Natural.

Eridan’s poker face is unmarred. He rolls his eyes and rips a piece of paper from Nepeta’s pad and crumples it up to toss at Karkat’s head. “Right here, smartass. Maybe you ought to take a page out of our book and pull the stick outta your ass.”

“As much as it pains me to do so, I have to agree with ED on this one,” you shrug nonchalantly.

Karkat shakes his head and runs a hand over his face. “I feel like I’m in the goddamn Twilight Zone,” he remarks.

“I’m right there with you,” Vriska agrees, giving Eridan a weird look.

Aradia, conversely, is giving Eridan a smile. You think she’s probably glad to see the two of you getting along. You ignore the quick stab in your stomach and avert your eyes, looking at anything but her.

 

 

Sollux: Go for a walk.

It’s actually a beautiful spring day, for what seems like the first time in ages. You take note of this as you exit the building that held your last class of the day. It seems the sun has finally decided to make an appearance, and you barely even need the hoodie you’re wearing.

With nothing better to do, and a desire to clear your head and enjoy this rare occurrence, you head down the street towards Washington Square Park. You almost miss the familiar figure on the bench, but that shock of purple is unmistakable.

“ED,” you greet him, walking over. Eridan looks up from the little notebook he was scrawling in, startled.

“Sol,” he responds, nodding slightly.

“What are you doing out here?”

“Well, I don’t know if you’re aware, but I happen to go to school right over there,” he informs you, pointing over at the line of NYU buildings.

“No need to be a smartass,” you snort, shoving your hands in your pockets. “But I mean, what are you doing just sitting here?”

He shrugs. “I’ve got class in an hour, which isn’t really enough time to go home an’ do anythin’. It’s a nice day out. I thought I’d just chill here for a while, work on some lyrics.”

You nod. “Mind if I join you?”

“S…ure,” he says slowly, pulling his messenger bag over to make room and slide his notebook inside. You sit down next to him, wondering if this is weird.

There’s a momentary silence as you try to think of something to talk about. He shifts uncomfortably. Maybe you shouldn’t have sat down.

“You left your sweatshirt at my apartment,” he finally says.

“Oh, did I?” you respond, though you did it on purpose. Just an excuse to come back. “I guess I ought to stop by later and pick that up.”

“Yeah,” he nods, “you should do that.”

You open your mouth, then shut it again. Is that all there is to it?

“You know…” you say suddenly, and he looks over. You take a deep breath. “We’ve already got the…benefits part, right? So I don’t think it’d hurt to try the friends part.”

He doesn’t respond at first, just blinks at you. This is the first time either of you has directly addressed your…arrangement…aloud.

“…Okay,” he says after an excruciatingly long silence. “Sure, we can try that.”

And when he smiles, you can’t help but smile back.

He looks down, fiddles with his rings. You’ve noticed them plenty of times, though he takes most of them off when he’s playing, considering how impractical they are. You used to brush it off as something flashy and idiotic, but now, you have to wonder.

“Tell me about these,” you say, gently taking his hand and running your thumb over the many rings.

He looks at you in surprise, as if wondering why you care. You shrug.

“I always thought they were kinda douchey,” you admit, and he frowns. “But it seems like they have a lot of history.”

“They do,” he agrees. “Do you really wanna know?”

You nod.

“Okay.” He starts with his left pinky, takes it off and hands it to you. “My mother knew a guy who could make jewelry out of utensils. She brought him my baby spoon, and he shaped the handle into this ring.”

You turn it over in your hands, admiring the detail. It even has his initials carved in. He slips it back onto his finger and retrieves the two on his ring finger.

“This one was for my sixteenth birthday,” he tells you, showing a simple gold band with the wavy sign of an Aquarius etched in. “And this was my eighteenth,” he adds, handing you another gold band embedded with several small amethysts. “My birthstone,” he explains. “Fef got it for me.”

Next comes the thick ring on his middle finger, one which is immediately recognizable. “My class ring,” he says, even though it’s obvious. He chose (shockingly) an amethyst. Around the edges is written ‘2009’ and ‘ERIDAN’. On one side there are music notes, and on the other, a paintbrush.

You hand it back to him. “And these?” you ask, brushing your fingers lightly over the two on his index finger. He automatically flinches, pulling his hand back. Your brow creases in concern. “ED?” you gently nudge.

“These…these belonged to my brother,” he tells you quietly, looking away.

At first, you don’t get it. “I thought you said you were an only child.”

“I am.” He smiles bitterly. “He died in a motorcycle crash when I was sixteen.”

Your stomach drops. “I…oh,” you breathe, not sure how to respond. “I’m so sorry.”

He shrugs, still looking anywhere but at you or the white gold bands. “It’s fine,” he says, shrugging stiffly. “He was an ass.”

There’s so much more to it than that, you can tell, but you don’t push it. Instead, you take his other hand and wait for him to collect himself and explain those.

He lets out a deep sigh and looks down at the large one on his right index finger. “This is…something like a family heirloom, I guess. My dad passed it down to me when I graduated high school.”

It’s got his family crest, which must be the most pretentious thing you’ve ever seen—seriously? A family crest? But it clearly means a lot to him, so you bite back the snarky remark that comes to mind.

“These are the newest ones,” he says, pointing out the two matching rings on his middle finger. Rather than smooth, round bands, they’re zig-zagged in the shape of the Aquarius symbol. “Just got ‘em in February.” He reads your momentary confusion and adds, “My 21st birthday.”

Oh. You want to wince at that, thinking back to February. You hadn’t even known his birthday had passed.

Funny, how two months ago can feel like nothing and simultaneously like ages.

He gets quiet again at his right ring finger. “Cronus got me these for Christmas one year.” They’re three very thin matching bands, in the same white gold as the ones that had once belonged to his brother—Cronus, you assume.

Absently, he spins them around his finger, but doesn’t remove them. “That was the Christmas he got his motorcycle,” he says, and you can tell he’s not all there. “He was so excited.”

You watch him get lost in his memories, and wish there was something you could say. He smiles just slightly, for the briefest of moments, then looks down and runs his hands over his face. “And this was his baby spoon, just like mine,” he says about the last ring on his pinky, flashing it quickly before pulling back and crossing his arms tight across his chest.

“Eridan…” you say, resting a hand on his back in what you hope is a comforting gesture. He shakes his head, waving off any sort of sympathetic nonsense you were about to spew on him.

“I’m fine, it’s fine,” he says again, but he’s not really fine. You’ve never lost anyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t empathize. Still, you don’t have words. So you tug lightly on his arms, uncrossing them, and take each of his hands. Silently, you bring them to your lips and press a soft kiss to each of his fingers.

He’s looking at you with wide eyes, like he can’t understand why you’re doing this. You don’t really understand either.

But you’re starting to.

“Would you like to go for a walk?” you ask, nodding in the direction of the park.

Eridan nods slowly. “I’d like that.”

 

Sollux: Ponder the universe over some shitty coffee.

There’s a small diner on 9th, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kinda place, and every now and then you find yourself slipping inside to hide out in one of its cushioned booths, with nothing but a steaming mug of bad coffee to keep you company. But you don’t really care about how bad the coffee is, because other than that it’s perfect: the place is nearly always deserted, and you get to have some quiet, alone time, something that’s hard to come by with a roommate and two other suitemates.

Sometimes you bring your schoolbooks and get some work done, but more often than not you just stare into the dark brown sludge between your hands and think. The regular afternoon waitress--a matronly woman in her 50’s or 60’s with a nametag that reads Beatrice--tends to leave you alone, so you’re not used to being interrupted. Which is why you’re so startled when someone slides into the other side of your booth.

“Could you have picked a dumpier place?” he says, looking down at the menu he seems to have grabbed on his way in.

You blink at him for a moment, cause you’re having trouble processing the fact that Eridan fucking Ampora has just slid into your booth, uninvited, like it’s no big deal, like you were supposed to meet here or something.

Okay, so you might have told him that you wanted to try being friends now or whatever. But this is still weird.

Beatrice walks by and shoots Eridan a dirty look. He doesn’t seem to notice.

When you don’t respond right away, he looks up from the menu, and his brow creases as he studies you. He was obviously expecting one of your usual snappy retorts.

“The fuck are you doing here?” you finally say, still blinking at him. The lines in his forehead deepen, and he looks down, seeming a bit…crestfallen?

He shrugs, avoiding your gaze. “I was walkin’ by, an’ I happened to look through the window and notice you sittin’ here alone, so I thought maybe…you’d want some…company.” His body language tells you that he’s suddenly feeling totally unsure, probably regretting his decision to come in. He starts to backtrack.

“I mean, I thought it might be a laugh to come an’ bug you a bit, you know. But if it’s really that big of a deal…” He trails off, looking up at you. There’s something in his expression that you can’t quite read.

Once again, your response isn’t immediate, so before you can give one, he nods to himself and closes the menu. “Right. Sorry. I’ll get out ‘a your hair.”

“ED, wait,” you say and catch his arm, surprising yourself and him. His eyes flicker down to the hand on his wrist, and you quickly withdraw it. “I’m just…not used to having company here. But I mean, you’re welcome to stay, if you want. The coffee’s pretty good.”

You’re not sure why you said that. For one thing, the coffee sucks. For another, this place is your escape, your way of getting away from the problems that await you outside. So why the hell would you drag one of your biggest problems in here?

The answer is simple, when you think about it. You genuinely want to spend time with him. And that scares the fuck out of you.

Eridan, however, relaxes visibly when you say this. His lips even twitch into the hint of a smile before he resumes his usual confident air as he opens the menu and peruses it thoughtfully. “I seriously doubt the coffee in a dingy little diner like this would be sufficient enough to satisfy my highly sensitive taste buds,” he sniffs. You chuckle to yourself, because there, he’s back. This is the boy you’re willingly giving up your free time for. You must really hate yourself.

“So what were you doin’ just sittin’ here by yourself anyway?” he asks, flipping through the pages and frowning.

“Sometimes it’s nice to just get away from the outside world and think,” you shrug. “Not that you’d be very capable of that last bit, anyway.”

He picks up the plastic menu and whacks your arm with it. You laugh.

Beatrice comes over then, her usual bored expression mixed with a tinge of annoyance as she looks expectantly at Eridan and clears her throat. He frowns at the menu for a bit longer before looking up at her.

“What exactly does the seafood platter come with?” he asks, even though you’re fairly certain it’s listed right there on the menu.

“Fried fish and shrimp,” she answers in a monotone.

“Do you have fresh salmon?”

She blinks at him from behind her thick, round glasses. “We got fried fish and shrimp.”

Eridan lets out a small hmph and looks back down at the menu. “Whatever, I guess I’ll get that, then. But I’d like it to be grilled, not fried, an’ there’d better be some good seasoning. Also, the shrimp should be de-shelled an’ served with the finest cocktail sauce you got, but don’t drown ‘em in it. In fact, I’d just like the sauce on the side, an’ go easy on the horseradish. Oh, and gimme the vegetables of the day on the side.”

Beatrice stares at him for a long moment before scribbling something down on her pad and shuffling off, not even bothering to ask you if you wanted anything else. You wouldn’t have had an answer if she had, considering your attention is focused on the stupid douchebag across from you.

“What?” he asks innocently.

You just shake your head and look down at your coffee, trying to hold back an incredulous laugh. “I’ll never understand how you work, Ampora.”

He smiles cheekily. “Good, then I’ve still got that whole intriguin’ air of mystery goin’ on.”

“Right,” you snort. “You’re the most intriguing person I’ve ever met. Gosh, I’m dying to know more. Please, tell me your life story.” You lean forward on your elbows and rest your chin in your hands, watching him with fascination.

“Why, Sol,” he gasps, putting a hand to his chest. “Is that sarcasm I detect?”

“Me? Sarcastic? Never,” you protest.

Eridan rolls his eyes and responds with a drawn-out “Mhmmmmmm.” When Beatrice returns and shoves a glass of water and a straw at him, he breaks off the end of the wrapper and blows into the straw, shooting the wrapper into your face. You sputter a bit and then lean across the table to flick him in the side of the head.

“Oh boy, you are so lucky I don’t have my food yet, or it’d be launchin’ across the table right now,” he warns after swatting your hand away.

“I’d like to see you attempt a food fight,” you respond drily. “The moment a speck of food got on any of your clothes, you’d flip tables and start shrieking about dry cleaning and personal hygiene.”

He looks down his nose at you, causing his glasses to slide down a bit. You feel the sudden urge to push them back up. “I didn’t know that havin’ standards was a bad thing,” he sniffs.

“Not when they’re as high as yours,” you shrug, taking a sip of your coffee before you remember how awful it is.

He narrows his eyes at you. “Just because you have no class…”

“Yes, because I’m sure that cheaply dyed black and purple hair, an eyebrow piercing, multiple tattoos, and Converse are the very definition of “high class”. I bet you would fit right in at the country club,” you snicker.

You expect an equally snarky comeback, but instead, his expression darkens and he averts his gaze. “Oh yeah, they really love me there.” You get the feeling that you might’ve said something wrong, and then you remember the one and only time he’s mentioned his parents to you.

“Oh. Sorry, I didn’t mean…”

He waves it off. “It’s no big deal,” he says, but you’re not really convinced. You’re not sure how to respond, though, so you look down at your coffee and grimace. Way to make it awkward.

“I just don’t really see why they can’t accept me the way I am,” he bursts out suddenly, and you look up in surprise. “Nothing I do is good enough for them, so why even try anymore? “You’re wasting your life,” they tell me. You know how many shows they’ve been to?”

You suspect that the answer is none. He proves you correct.

“Zip. Zero. Nada. An’ I mean, at least they would’a approved of me bein’ with Fef. They like her. They’ve been friends with her parents for years. But if I were to tell them about you—” He shuts up immediately and his eyes go wide, like he knows he just went into off-limits territory, like he thinks you’re gonna look at him with disgust and storm out.

But of course, you don’t do either of those things. You’re not really sure what the right thing to do is, but you go with your first instinct, which is to reach over and lay your hand on top of his. He flinches initially at your touch, and his eyes grow even larger behind his stupid glasses as he looks first at you and then your hands. It feels strange, and you’re not sure what you’re doing, but you don’t remove your hand.

“I’m sorry,” you say in what you hope is a genuinely sympathetic tone. “Have you tried talking to them?”

He shrugs, a tiny jerk of his shoulders. “They don’t listen,” he says quietly.

“Then make them,” you insist, and give his hand a slight squeeze. His eyes meet yours once again, and you smile reassuringly.

Inch by inch, bit by bit, you’re starting to piece this mess of a boy together. There’s so much more to him than you’d initially seen, blinded by petty hatred and bad first impressions. You’re starting to see what makes him tick, why he tries so hard in everything that he does, that behind his arrogant mask is a sad, lonely boy who just wants to be loved.

And as much as you hate to admit it, what you’re doing to him is only making it worse.

You slowly pull your hand back, and he tries not to look disappointed, but he can’t help wearing his heart on his sleeve. All you want to do right now is gather him up in your arms and hold him, remind him that he is worth something. That he means something to you.

But you can’t.

How did this happen?

This is not what you signed up for.

Beatrice shows up just then and sets a plate down in front of Eridan. There are three strips of fish, definitely fried, and 5 shrimp that probably came out of a bag that’s been sitting in the freezer for who knows how long. Next to the shrimp is a tiny dipping bowl of something that looks suspiciously like ketchup. There are no vegetables on the plate.

“Enjoy,” she grumbles as she walks off.

Eridan blinks down at it for a long moment. You stare as well, then look up at his expression and let out a short laugh.

“I’m sorry,” you chuckle, covering your mouth. “I just…wow. This place is fantastic.” You take a sip of your terrible coffee, as if to demonstrate, and laugh some more.

He looks at you, then looks down at his plate. “Next time,” he says as he picks up his fork and knife, “I’m pickin’ the place.”

“Next time, you should wait until I invite you,” you point out.

“Ah, so you’re planning on invitin’ me next time?” he smirks, and it seems his melancholy mood is gone, in spite of the exceedingly disappointing plate in front of him.

“Maybe if you’re really lucky,” you tease. He rolls his eyes as he cuts a piece of fish and spears it on his fork.

“You know, I only came in here cause you looked so damn pathetic sittin’ all by yourself, so I thought I’d take pity on you an’ grace you with my company,” he assures you, before putting the fish in his mouth and chewing. “Huh…not that bad.” When you raise an eyebrow at him, he swallows and amends his statement: “I mean, it’s still pretty fuckin’ awful. But I suppose it could be worse.”

You watch him thoughtfully for a moment. Then, without warning, you reach forward and dip your finger into his shrimp sauce and smear it across his nose. He squawks and drops his fork, trying to push you away and wipe his nose off simultaneously, but you catch his hand and shush him.

“Don’t wipe it off. I’m trying to teach you a valuable life lesson here,” you tell him.

He’s watching you like you’re crazy. “But—”

“But nothing. You care too much about how people perceive you, what they think when they look at you. But sometimes in life, you have ketchupy cocktail sauce on your nose, and you have to learn to say, ‘I have ketchupy cocktail sauce on my nose and I’m proud, so fuck what you think about it.’” You release his hand, and he doesn’t try to wipe it off, but he does continue to stare incredulously.

“Sol, I don’t see how that’s ever gonna be remotely applicable to my life, I don’t make a habit of walkin’ around with sauce on my nose—”

“It’s an analogy, dumbass.”

He opens and closes his mouth, then looks around with a pained expression. “But I look ridiculous. That woman over there won’t stop starin’ at me,” he whines.

“Good,” you say approvingly. “Let her stare. What does her opinion matter? She’s just some woman in a dumpy diner that you’ll never meet again.”

Eridan frowns, and you can practically see the cogs in his head turning as he mulls over what you just said. “Yeah, but…” And then he can’t really form a counter argument, so he humphs and cuts a new piece of fish. You watch him, with his furrowed brow like he’s especially befuddled by the fish, and the streak of red across his nose, and you just can’t help the snicker that escapes your lips.

“What?” he demands, looking up at you with frustration.

Now that you’ve started, you can’t really stop. You cover your mouth and shake your head, then manage to get out between giggles: “You really do look ridiculous, though.”

At first he looks offended and indignant, and you can tell he wants to object strongly, but it only makes you laugh harder. And as your laughter grows, you see his lips start to twitch, and despite what are surely his strongest efforts to hold it back, he soon can’t help but laugh as well. He dips his finger in the imitation sauce and spreads it across your face as payback, and that only doubles the laughter. Beatrice is giving you a nasty look from across the diner, but you really couldn’t care less, because the carefree grin on his face as he lets loose and laughs is one of the most refreshing things you’ve seen.

Chapter Text

Eridan: Get caught up in the moment.

You really don’t know how it got to this point. You have no fucking clue when it stopped being want greed lust need and started being…this.

You have absolutely no right being this comfortable right now, legs tangled with his as you lean back against your couch cushions, kissing gently.

It’s none of the hard, rough kissing that you did at the start, complete with biting and hair pulling and an insatiable hunger. This is slow, lazy kissing, this is a softness you didn’t even know he was capable of a month ago.

But that doesn’t mean it’s any less exciting. There’s nothing even remotely boring about the way he traces your lips with his tongue, teasingly, before he slips it between them. It’s just as thrilling as ever when he reaches up to cup your face, leaning in even closer, and your skin feels like it’s on fire where he’s touching it. You’re positive that he can hear your heart beating in your chest.

And that’s okay, because you can feel his.

Slowly, you start to slide backwards and downwards, and he follows you, pressing you down until you’re lying flat on your back and he’s on top of you, never breaking apart. Your chests are pressed together, and he’s so warm, his body heat running through you, better even than the world’s fuzziest blanket that just came out of the drier. And you can’t explain it, because you know what you’re doing is wrong, but something about this just feels so right.

He pulls back and looks at you, just looks at you. Those hypnotizing bicolored eyes sweep across your face, from your slightly swollen lips to your own blue eyes, and there’s something in his gaze that you’ve never seen before. You’re so happy in this moment that you think you must be glowing.

“What is it?” you murmur, starting to feel self-conscious under his gaze.

He smiles, the tiniest quirk of the lips, and shakes his head. “Nothing, really. Just thinking.”

“Thinkin’ ’bout what?”

“Things.”

“That’s awfully specific,” you note.

He chuckles and runs his fingers lightly through your hair. “It’s nothing,” he assures you.

You don’t believe him, but you let it go. You don’t want to ruin the moment.

But you might do just that:

“Sol?”

“Yeah?”

“What are we doin’?”

Thankfully, he must have been expecting something like that, because he doesn’t pull away, he doesn’t stop what he’s doing. Now he’s tracing a line down your face with his fingertips, looking anywhere but your eyes. He has to think about it for a moment.

“I really don’t have an answer for that,” he says honestly. At least, you think it’s honest. It certainly feels that way.

You nod, accepting this answer. You want to keep going, want to ask him if he feels guilty, if he regrets anything, if he wishes things had turned out differently. But you really don’t want to push it, so you don’t.

Instead, you thread your fingers through the hair on the back of his head and pull him down to kiss you again.

 

Sollux: Engage in some post-coital cuddling.

You don’t even think about it anymore. It’s just normal to curl up next to him, tangle your legs with his, let him rest his head on your chest as you lightly run your fingers through his hair. It comes as naturally as breathing.

Sometimes he lets out these soft noises, these tiny little sighs and hums of contentment, and it takes all of your self-control not to reciprocate.

So you reply with your body instead, shifting slightly closer, tracing shapes and letters into his skin with the tips of your fingers. You think he understands.

Some nights, you drift off right away. Others, like tonight, you lie awake, staring at the ceiling, and listen to him breathe.

“Eridan?” you murmur, checking to see if he’s awake.

He nods and runs his hand lightly up and down your side, sending tingles through your skin. “Sollux,” he answers, and it’s not a question, it’s a statement.

You're not really tired, and as much as you enjoy just lying here in silence, tonight you want to hear his voice.

"Do you ever wonder what's out there?"

He picks his head up just slightly to give you a baffled look. "Whaddaya mean?"

You wave vaguely through the air with your free hand. "You know, is there anything more than all of this?"

He settles down again, pressing his cheek against the skin of your chest. "Do you mean inna physical sense, like our universe 'n shit, or inna theoretical sense, like God?"

A slight shrug. "Either. Both. I dunno."

He's quiet, but his hand still traces your side, feather-light, up and down. "Well physically...there's gotta be more out there," he says, rather matter-of-factly. "I mean, NASA is findin' all these planets, all these potentials, an' it's just plain dumb to think we're the only life in this great big universe."

"Right," you nod, agreeing. "But I guess that's just the narcissism of humanity, thinking we're the only thing that matters."

"As for that other stuff..." He gets quiet again, thinking. "I'm honestly not sure. Never really been a big fan a' religion, quite frankly. I guess I've always been more of a man a’ science."

"The two aren't mutually exclusive, you know. You can be a man of science and a man of faith," you point out, though if you had to choose, you'd probably agree with Eridan.

"I guess," he acknowledges. "I used to be more into faith an' stuff when I was younger, but..." he trails off. "I sorta...lost faith, over the years." He breathes in deep, lets it out through his mouth. "It's the age old question, you know. How can there be a kind an' merciful God when so much terrible shit happens in the world?"

You don't have a counterargument to that, because you've wondered the very same thing yourself. Still, you can't help but think about what might've caused Eridan to feel that way, to lose faith.

"Did it have something to do with your brother dying?" you ask slowly, carefully. His hand freezes on your side, and you stop breathing for a moment, wondering if you've crossed the line. But he makes a small noise and turns his face into your chest, like he's hiding from the world.

"That might'a been a contributin' factor, yeah," he concedes softly.

The desire to ask him more is overwhelming, to dig deeper, figure this boy out, but you're still not sure where the line is, and you're scared of going too far. Words stick in your throat, but eventually you get them out:

"Can you tell me about him?"

He pauses only for a few seconds, but it feels like an eternity, so you quickly add, "You don't have to, of course."

But he turns his head so that his face is no longer buried, and takes a deep breath before proclaiming, "Cronus was the biggest douche I have ever encountered."

Maybe he's expecting a reaction at that, but you don't offer one, just wait for him to continue.

“When I was a kid, he told me that magic wasn’t real. “For your own good,” he said. I was seven.” He sighs, adjusting his head on your chest. You find his hand and thread your fingers through his.

“He stank up the house with his damn cigarette smoke. He couldn’t live without gallons of hair gel. His favorite movie was Grease an’ he was convinced that he was born in the wrong decade. He was reckless and filthy and just plain dumb." He pauses for a moment, but he’s not done.

"An' you should'a seen the way he flirted. Dear god, it was painful to watch. His pickup lines, the most cliché and awful ones you could think of. His stupid "nice guy" act, pretendin' to be all sensitive and misunderstood. He hit on anythin’ that moved, despite the fact that no one could really stand him. Quite honestly, it was repulsive. An' the worst part was, he'd try to coach me, tell me what I was doin' wrong, how I could be more like my stud of a big brother."

You can practically hear him rolling his eyes as he says it. And suddenly your early impressions of Eridan make a lot more sense. Suddenly his tendency of trying too hard isn't funny; it's pitiful. You can only imagine what kind of influence his brother must have had on him. It's awful, really, but a part of you can't help feeling maybe Eridan is better off without the guy.

His fingers twitch, and you think that his kneejerk reaction is probably to start playing with those rings, which are currently spread across his nightstand. You remain quiet as he breathes and gathers his thoughts.

"But he was my big brother," he bursts out suddenly, and it sounds like there's a lump in his throat. "He was a shit, but I honestly think he meant well. He was always lookin' after me, tryin' to help me, in his awfully misguided way. He just wanted the best for me." And now you feel terrible for even thinking that, because as shitty as family can be, they're your family, and no one should have to lose that.

“When our parents started screamin’ bloody murder at each other, he’d scoop me up an’ lock us in his room, where we’d build a fort a’ blankets and pillows and watch Harry Potter on full volume so we couldn’t hear ‘em.”

He sniffs and shakes his head, and your fingers find his, intertwine them. “He’s the one who taught me how to play guitar, actually. This band might not even exist if it wasn’t for him.”

“Wow,” you say, and you kiss the top of his head. “Maybe I should be thanking Cronus, then.”

He starts to laugh. It’s quiet and shaky, but it’s a genuine laugh nonetheless. “I never thought I’d hear anyone say that,” he admits, still chuckling.

You smile; glad to hear him laughing, even if it is bittersweet.

“I have a little brother,” you tell him, and you’re not sure why you’re bringing this up, but you keep going. “Brightest kid I ever knew.”

Eridan tilts his head up so he’s looking up at you. “You said that in the past tense.”

“Yeah,” you nod. “He got in an accident too. He’s still alive, but…” you struggle to find the right words, not wanting to get in too deep. “He suffered permanent brain damage.”

“…Oh.”

“He’s still a lovable little scamp, and I’ll always look after him, but…” you shrug slightly, wondering why you’re still talking about this. “He’ll never be the same.”

Eridan picks his head up and turns it so that he can look at you dead-on. With nothing but the dim light coming through a crack in the curtains to see by, his deep blue eyes are almost black. Or maybe, you think as you look closer, they’re royal purple.

“I’m sorry,” he says.

You give him a small smile. “I’m sorry, too.”

He searches your face for a while, like he’s looking for something. He seems to find it, as he leans forward to kiss you gently. You let him.

 

 

 

Eridan: Give Aradia her moment.

A grin spreads across your face as you exit the stage, the crowd cheering you off. You’re not sure what it is—maybe it’s because the venue tonight is bigger than usual, or maybe you’re just incredibly in the zone—but tonight feels like one of the best shows you’ve had in a while.

You’re high off of the adrenaline, you feel excited and exhilarated and even though you just played the majority of a set, you feel as though you could go back out there and play for the rest of the night without getting tired.

But earlier today, Aradia approached you and kindly asked if you could leave the stage and let her premiere a new song she just wrote. She’s done the same for you more than once, so you agreed to let your co-lead have her time to shine, hence why you’re standing in the wings right now, where the audience can’t see you but you can still watch.

It’s quite a simple song, apparently, as Vriska and Gamzee left as well, leaving only herself, Kanaya, and Equius. They’re hanging behind you, along with Karkat and Terezi and Tavros, and it’s practically a goddamn party back here.

Oddly enough, you haven’t even heard this song yet, and neither have most of the others. Normally you’d protest letting her perform a song that half the band hasn’t even heard, but Kanaya assured you that it would be an outstanding performance, and you trust her judgment.

“This is a new song that I just wrote, and it has a lot of personal meaning to me. I hope it speaks to you as well,” Aradia says into the microphone. Her voice is oddly soft, and there’s a tone of something that sounds like sadness. The crowd senses the mood and quiets down as Kanaya begins to play a simple melody on her keys.

Aradia presses her lips to the microphone and sings. You’ve always admired her voice, but there’s something in this performance that you’ve never heard before.

It’s beautiful, but you don’t really get what she’s trying to say.

Until the chorus.

Hu, hu, hu, huuuush,
You color my eyes red,
Your love’s not live, it’s dead.
This letter has written itself inside out again.
When rivers turn to roads,
And lovers become trends…
hu, hu, huuush,
This is where it ends.

You freeze. And as her words sink in, you grow cold.

Every doubt you’ve ever had, every worry or bad feeling, every nagging sting of guilt all comes rushing onto you at once, and you have to put a hand out and steady yourself against the wall. The pure pain in her voice is like daggers in your chest. You feel sick to your stomach.

This is the calming before the storm…
This absolution
Is always incomplete
It’s always bittersweet

Aradia is putting everything that she has into this performance. Her eyes are squeezed shut, and she’s gripping the microphone so hard that her knuckles are turning white. She’s holding onto it like it’s a lifeline, like she’ll collapse if she doesn’t. You realize that everything you’re feeling right now is probably a thousand times worse in her.

And that only makes you feel sicker.

“Hu, hu, hu, huuuush,” she pleads, “You color my eyes red. Your love’s not live, it’s dead,” and now you can hear her getting choked up, but she pushes through it, and somehow, it’s the best her voice has ever sounded. “When rivers turn to roads, and lovers become trends…hu, hu, hu, huuuush. This is where it ends.”

Your gaze travels to Kanaya. She looks sad as she plays her part, watching Aradia all the while. Equius looks as impassive as ever behind his shades, but there’s a twinge of sympathy in the tilt of his eyebrows. To your side, your bandmates look vaguely concerned, but there’s also confusion. They don’t know what this is about. You wish you didn’t, either.

Slowly, unwillingly, your eyes move past Aradia, past the audience, to the back corner of the venue. But the lights are too bright, the angle is wrong, and you can’t see his face.

You don’t really think you want to.

“I won’t make a sound so you don’t wake…you don’t wake…you don’t wake……” She’s wailing, and you want to cry, you want to bang your fists against the wall and scream because she doesn’t deserve this, she doesn’t deserve what you’ve done to her, and this resonates so strongly in you because in this song you can hear yourself, and because in this song, you know the bitter, awful truth.

The fairytale is over.

Hu, hu, hu, huuuush,
You color my eyes red.
Your love’s not live, it’s dead.
This letter has written itself inside out again.
When rivers turn to roads,
And lovers become trends,
Hu, hu, huuuush,
This is where it ends…

This is where it ends.

Her head sags down, and you watch as a tear rolls down her cheek. And then she gathers herself up, nods at the crowd, and walks off the stage, brushing past you and everyone else and heading directly to the back. No one tries to stop her.

The venue is eerily quiet. Belatedly, someone begins to clap, and the sound slowly builds until it overwhelms you, washing over you, and you know she can hear it back there. She has to.

You’re supposed to go back on the stage and finish the show now. But Aradia is not coming back, and you’re not really sure if you can move, you’re not really sure if your legs can support you.

No one else is quite sure what to do, either. Eventually, Karkat looks at you and asks if you can do a quick solo number to wrap up the show. You nod dumbly, still staring straight ahead. They don’t really seem to grasp how shell-shocked you are. Only Kanaya makes eye contact with you, and you see something suspiciously like understanding in her eyes.

After several deep breaths, you walk numbly onto the stage, grab your guitar and put the strap over your head, approach the microphone. Sing on autopilot. You don’t even remember what you’re singing. It’s probably the most robotic performance you’ve ever given.

All you know is that the balance feels off, that something doesn’t sound right. When you glance over at the sound booth, you understand why. No one is there.

 

 

 

Sollux approaches you after the show. He stands a fair distance back, and he’s about as stiff as you, if not more.

You know what he’s going to say, but it still hurts like a blow to the chest when he says it.

“We’re done.” His eyes are cold.

You nod. “I know.”

And that’s all there is. He turns his back on you and leaves, and it takes every last shred of willpower to hold yourself together.

Chapter Text

Vriska: Wonder what the fuck is going on.

You really have no clue. All you know is this:

After Aradia gave one of the most dramatic performances you’ve ever witnessed (and, with Eridan as a lead singer, that’s saying something) and vanished for the rest of the night, you were confused, to say the least.

Eridan looked shaken as fuck, white as a freaking ghost, and numbly managed to get through one last number to end the show before he vanished, as well. This was even more confusing, because you couldn’t figure out how the two were connected.

It was pretty clear from the lyrics and the dramatics that the song was some sort of farewell to her relationship with Sollux. That much, at least, was obvious. This was confirmed by Kanaya, who quietly told you the next morning that she had dumped him after the show, which would explain their absences.

Still, it didn’t explain why Eridan suddenly reverted to the pathetic, miserable state you’d hoped he’d finally ditched months ago, back when Feferi had left the band.

He tried not to show it, of course. He was much better at controlling himself this time around, and maybe it was because he had something to hide. (You had your suspicions, sure, but you didn’t share them aloud, wouldn’t risk the embarrassment of being wrong unless you knew you had ALL the answers first.) But still, Eridan was Eridan, and Eridan wears his heart on his sleeve. It was pretty much impossible for the stupid jerk to convince everyone that he was alright.

Aradia grew cold, quiet. Her usual warm and bubbly nature that sometimes irked the hell out of you was blanketed by pain, and it seemed that her method of coping was to shut down. She went through the motions, but there was no life in her. She was like a robot.

The two lead singers were such a mess that Karkat was forced to cancel the show you were supposed to play the next night. Naturally, this annoyed the hell out of you, but you knew it was for the best. You’d rather have it be cancelled than have to play a show with a zombie and a robot front and center.

Honestly, what you’d like to do is beat a little sense into them. You’ll give Aradia some time—the girl did just have her heart broken, after all, though you’re still not exactly sure how or why. On the other hand, it would please you to no end to give Eridan a verbal smackdown or two, but you’re not even sure if anything you said could get through that annoyingly thick skull of his.

You keep pestering Kanaya for information, trying to get all the details of what went down, but she’s being infuriatingly quiet about the whole thing, saying nothing except that Aradia described Sollux as growing “cold and distant”, and that she couldn’t bear it any longer. But you know there’s gotta be more to the story than that, and it’s driving you crazy that you can’t get it out of anyone.

You’ve never really maintained the greatest relationship with Aradia, so it’d be a bit awkward to ask her. You’re sure not going to talk to Eridouche. Kanaya won’t tell you shit. And Sollux himself seems to have suddenly inherited an invisibility cloak. As a last resort, you try to wheedle some gossip out of Karkat, only to have him launch into a ten-minute rant about being a nosy bitch.

And so it is with annoyance and frustration that you show up at the mandatory band meeting that Karkat calls in his living room on Thursday afternoon. Everyone is there except for, predictably, Sollux.

Aradia sits quietly on the couch between Tavros and Terezi, looking down at her lap. Eridan, meanwhile, has claimed the armchair, and is trying to maintain a stone cold poker face. Trying, being the key word here. He never was a very good actor.

“Okay guys, let’s play shut-the-fuck-up-and-listen-to-the-voice-of-reason,” Karkat says, bringing the low chattering to an end and calling everyone’s attention to himself. “I know we’ve hit what seems to be a pretty bad roadblock here, but trust me, I’ve seen considerably shittier, so let’s all take a deep breath and quit running around like chickens with their heads cut off, shall we?”

You roll your eyes at the dramatics, cause no one’s really doing that. He just looooooooves to exaggerate.

“Now. Aradia.” He turns to look at her, and his tone actually softens a bit. She picks her head up and meets his gaze. “I’m really sorry about what’s happened. I understand that you’re having a really difficult time with all of this. But here’s the deal. We have a show scheduled for this Sunday. Now, I could cancel it. But we’re gonna start to look really unreliable if we continue to cancel, and no one’s gonna wanna book us in the future. So you’re gonna have to choose between sitting at home and moping or helping out your friends by doing something you love.”

Nepeta winces a bit on her behalf at that last bit, but Aradia hardly seems phased. “I’ll be fine,” she says calmly, nodding. “I can perform.”

“Excellent,” Karkat nods, looking relieved. “That’s just what I needed to hear.”

He looks away from her, addressing the rest of the group. “As for S…our tech guy,” he continues, not-so-casually skipping over the name. “He’s told me that he won’t be around for a while.” You look at Aradia, trying to find a reaction, but she doesn’t give one. “We’ll be able to get along just fine without him, I’m sure. After all, every venue has their own sound guy that usually handles the bands, anyway. We always were a little ridiculous for bringing him along. Granted, he’s the best there is, but…” he shrugs. “What can we do. Everything will be alright, I’m sure.”

You rest your chin in your hands and watch Karkat, feeling a bit befuddled. He’s being oddly nice today.

“And as for you,” he says, looking accusingly at Eridan. “Care to share with the class what your deal is?”

Eridan looks at him with poorly feigned surprise. “What’re you talkin’ ‘bout? I don’t got a deal. I’m fine.”

Karkat gives him a long, hard look, and then lets it go. “You’d better be. If Aradia can be fine, then you should be extra-fine. I’m not in the mood to deal with your absurd dramatics, no matter what bullshit’s brought them on this time, and I don’t think anyone else is either.”

To this, you nod emphatically. Equius nods as well, watching the lead singer sternly.

“Yeah, yeah, you got it boss,” Eridan sighs, hand waving it away. “Captain a’ the S.S. Extra-Fine, reportin’ for duty.”

Karkat looks less than pleased with this response, but he doesn’t push the issue. “Good. Now let’s discuss the set list. I’m thinking we should stick with what we know, the comfortable stuff. We’ve done enough new shit to last us for a little while now.”

This takes far longer than it needs to, especially once Terezi and Karkat get into one of their spats. But eventually, everything is worked out, and Karkat gives everyone the all clear to leave. And though you’d normally book it the hell out of there, your nosiness comes out and gets the better of you, and you sort of hang back, trying to see if there’s anything you can sniff out of this. Aradia leaves right away, followed shortly by Eridan, but pretty much everyone else is still hanging around the living room.

“That poor girl,” you overhear Nepeta saying to Equius. She’s shaking her head, watching Aradia go. You casually drift over towards them, pushing Tavros aside to join their little circle.

“I never really understood what happened,” you remark innocently. Across the room, Kanaya is giving you a disapproving look, but you pay her no mind.

“No one told you, Vwhiskers?” Nepeta asks, looking at you with slight surprise.

You sigh and shake your head. “No one ever wants to keep poor Vwhiskers in the loop anymore,” you affirm.

“Well,” Nepeta says, a glint forming in her eye as she lowers her voice. “Aradia said that Sollux wasn’t acting himself anymore. That he just kind of drifted further and further away from her, that he barely seemed to care for her much anymore. So she finally had enough and just…broke. But if you ask me, I think there’s a bit more to it than that.”

“Yeah?” you ask, quirking an eyebrow.

She nods, a look on her face like she’s about to divulge something particularly scandalous. “As far as I’m aware, that’s all Aradia thinks there is to it. But if you ask me? I think Sollux must have been seeing someone on the side.”

This causes you to frown, your brow furrowing. “Do you really think…? He doesn’t seem the type. But then again, I guess it would make sense…” You think it over, still frowning. “But I mean…who could he…?”

“Think about it!” Nepeta whispers, looking like she’s about to burst. “Who else do you know that’s been acting totally heartbroken ever since she sang that song??”

It takes you half a second, and then your mouth drops open, your eyes grow huge. “Noooooooo…” you hiss, feeling utterly scandalized in the most delicious way. “But they hate each other!”

“They used to hate each other,” she corrects. “But haven’t you noticed them acting strange lately?”

You clap your hand over your mouth, still not believing what you’re hearing, but realizing that they HAVE been acting incredibly weird lately. If you hadn’t known better, you almost would have called it…flirting.

“Nepeta, this theory sounds absolutely ludicrous,” Equius interjects.

“I have to agree, with Equius that is,” Tavros adds. “It seems like a pretty, uh, farfetched scenario,” but you’re not listening to his mindless drivel because the gears in your head are whirring, piecing together every scrap of evidence you’ve gathered, everything you’ve observed over the past few weeks, all the strange behavior, and suddenly you’re certain without a shadow of a doubt that Nepeta must be right.

Holy crap. This is huge. You have to tell EVERYONE.

“Terezi!!!!” you hiss, beckoning her over. She and Karkat are both waving their hands animatedly as they talk at Gamzee, seemingly trying to get through the perpetual haze that surrounds him, but he’s staring at both of them with a bewildered experiment. “TEREZI!!!!” you hiss again, and this time she looks up. Karkat keeps going, oblivious, but she wanders over to join your little huddle.

“What’s up?” she asks, casually leaning against Tavros’ shoulder. He doesn’t seem to be expecting that and sort of loses his balance for a second, causing her to wobble a bit as well, but she plays it off.

“Oh, nothing,” you smirk, “only the greatest scandal in the history of this goddamned band.”

The word ‘scandal’ catches her attention and her face descends into the usual devious look. “I demand you tell me immediately.”

You grin, trying to drag this out as long as possible. Nepeta has pressed her hands over her mouth, trying to hold in her giggles. Equius looks thoroughly unimpressed by all of this foolishness, but he’s not leaving without Nepeta. You don’t pay Tavros any mind, because he’s hardly worth the effort of looking in his direction.

“Weeeeeeeell…” you start, but someone clears their throat behind you and you turn around to see Miss Fussy giving you a Look.

“It’s horribly impolite to gossip about our friends, Vriska,” Kanaya reminds you.

“And has that ever stopped me before?” you laugh.

She fixes you with that Look for a moment longer before sighing and squeezing in next to you in the ever-growing circle. “If this is about Sollux and Aradia…” she starts, and you cut her off.

“It is, but it’s also about Eridan and his highly suspicious involvement in the whole…affair,” you grin, choosing your words very carefully.

Somehow, Kanaya doesn’t look very surprised. Perhaps she’d worked it out even before Nepeta. Terezi, on the other hand, looks confused.

“What does he have to do with it all?” she questions.

Nepeta is practically bursting out of her skin trying to contain herself, so you look at her and ask, “Nepeta, will you do the honors?”

Eagerly and without hesitation she walks Terezi through the same theory she gave you. It takes Terezi about a second longer than it did you, but suddenly she’s throwing back her head and laughing hysterically.

“This really is too rich,” you agree, nearly joining her in her expression of amusement. Kanaya still seems to disapprove of the open mockery and elbows Terezi quite unsubtly after shooting you another displeased look. Terezi tries to contain herself after that, but she’s still grinning.

“Are you sure we should really, be laughing at the situation, regardless of the fact that it may, or may not, happen to be the truth?” Tavros asks with a frown.

“It is unfair to Aradia—as well as Captor and Ampora,” Equius agrees slowly. “I still find the whole notion preposterous…although it is true that they have been acting a bit strange as of late.”

“Of course they have,” Karkat interrupts. It seems Terezi’s laughter had finally attracted his attention to the gossip circle and he came to investigate, with Gamzee trailing along behind him. “It’s ridiculously obvious, I can’t believe it took you asswipes this long to figure it out.”

Tavros and Equius still seem a bit skeptical, but they remain quiet. Gamzee looks like he’s not even in this room right now, let alone this conversation. You cross your arms and look at Karkat again, stupidly bothered that he figured it out so much sooner than you. “I guess you’re just soooooooo much smarter than us all,” you mock, rolling your eyes exaggeratedly. “But answer me this, brave and fearless leader. Now that we all know this scintillating information, are we gonna do anything about it?”

“Like what?” Kanaya frowns.

“You know, help clean up the mess so that we’re not down two lead singers and a tech guy?” you urge, giving everyone a look but especially Karkat.

He sighs and runs a hand over his face. “Sollux is literally never around, and when he is I can’t even talk to him, it’s like talking to a wall. But as mopey and stubborn as Eridan can be…” He nods, slowly warming to the idea. “Yeah, I think maybe I could get through to him.”

“Great!” you grin, reaching over to clap him on the shoulder. “Let’s put an end to all of this bullshit, shall we?”

 

 

Karkat: Confirm everyone’s suspicions.

More like, “smack some sense into idiot number 1,” cause, please. It’s not even a suspicion anymore. Those assholes couldn’t be more obvious if they were carrying giant neon signs that read “WE’VE BEEN FUCKING ALL ALONG.”

Luckily, Eridan’s apartment door is unlocked, so you burst right in, don’t even bother with knocking. He protests weakly from his spot on the couch, nestled under a pile of blankets like the miserable sack of shit he is.

“Listen up, dickwad,” you say, marching into the living room and facing him with your hands on your hips. “You fucked up. Big time. But it’s gonna be okay, because your kind and generous pal Karkat is here to divulge some key advice that will make it all better.”

A pillow comes sailing in your direction. It misses you by a mile.

“Go away, Kar,” he grumbles, not looking at you. “I don’t even know what you’re talkin’ bout. I didn’t do shit.”

“Don’t play that game with me now,” you warn, reaching down to retrieve the pillow. “You did a lot of things. Number one on that list being Sollux.”

His head snaps over to you now, eyes wide as saucers, before he gives an Oscar-worthy performance of hiding the guilt. And by Oscar-worthy you mean the Oscar for the world’s worst performance. Really, it’s quite impressive. “W-what do you mean? I didn’t do Sol, that’s the most fuckin’ ridiculous thing I ever heard,” he sputters.

With a flick of the wrist, you nail him in the face with the pillow, which only flusters him more. He tosses it to the ground, face bright red, and pushes his glasses up his nose before opening his mouth to continue, but you cut him off.

“I refuse to listen to whatever vitriolic mind-numbing garbage you were planning on spewing. Here are the facts: Aradia dumped Sollux because he got distant, but there had to be something that pulled him away. You two went from full-out brawls to playful fucking banter, also known as the worst kind of flirting I’ve ever had the displeasure to witness. When the shit hit the whirling device, an issue that should only have affected two people sent you into a worse depression than you endured when Feferi left. Oh, and as the cherry on top of this insanely fucked up cake, YOU’RE WEARING HIS FUCKING SWEATSHIRT.”

He looks down at the green hoodie (which he apparently never gave back) as if he’d totally forgotten he was wearing it. You wish you had another pillow to chuck at him.

“Now, like I said, you fucked up bad. Sollux fucked up worse, and I’d like to give him a solid punch in the jaw for what he did to that poor girl—in fact, I’m surprised I haven’t already—but that doesn’t make you innocent. So now it’s time to clean up the mess that you made.

Eridan can’t look at you, too overwhelmed by guilt and surprise and confusion, too caught off guard by your accusations, too unsure of how to react to it all. He takes a minute or two to put himself back together, to let your words sink in and accept the fact that there’s no wiggling his way out of this one. You’ve got him pinned.

“Why is it my job?” he says finally, his voice small and pitiful.

“Because I’ve known Sollux since second grade, and I’ve never met a more stubborn asshole in my entire life. He’s not gonna do shit, not even if I scream myself hoarse. But I know you want to fix this, right?”

He looks down, fiddles with the strings of your roommate’s sweatshirt. “I think it’s too late for that, Kar.”

You shake your head and cross your arms. “Nope, I’m not taking that. Aradia is bad enough as it is, but we can’t have two lead singers out of commission. Not to mention we’re in a serious need of Sollux’s help, though it pains me to admit it. And you know what, call me crazy—hell, I should be in a fucking institution by now—but I actually care about this godawful band. And its members. So you know what you’re gonna do? You’re gonna get up off your mopey ass, you’re gonna plaster a smile on that pretty little face, and you’re gonna do something about all of this. Got it?”

But all he does is curl into himself, holding another pillow to his chest, and shakes his head. “I can’t, Kar. I fuckin’ can’t. Just leave me alone.”

You sigh. “Well, alright then. I didn’t want to do this, but you’ve left me with no choice. Time to bring in the big guns.” And you head over to the front door, waving her in.

“Wow, Eridan! You’ve really trashed the place since I left!” she remarks, looking around the apartment before zeroing in on him and fixing him with one of those smiles that you’ve always found inexplicably creepy.

You’d give anything to snap a picture of his face right now. It’s fucking priceless.

“…hey, Fef.”

Chapter Text

Eridan: Tell the girl of your dreams all about the boy of your dreams.

Fuck, no.

Feferi is smiling at you, and you don’t even care about the state that she last left you in because she’s smiling at you and suddenly the universe feels right again.

“I’ll leave you to it,” Karkat states, making his exit. You barely notice.

“Hi, Eridan,” she says, sitting down on the edge of the couch at your feet. You straighten up and pull your legs in so there’s more room. “How have you been?”

You shrug, watching her somewhat warily, still not quite believing she’s here. “Pretty okay, actually. Until recently.”

She smiles sympathetically. “Karkat told me what he knows. I have to admit, I couldn’t believe it! But I’d really like to hear everything from you, if you wouldn’t mind sharing. I promise I won’t judge.”

You absolutely do not want to tell Fef, your Fef, about your affair with Sollux. It’s probably the second to last thing you want to do, with the last thing being talking to Sollux himself. But she’s here, she’s back, and maybe if you talk to her, she’ll stay.

Plus, she’s giving you the puppy dog eyes. You never could resist when she did that.

“Okay,” you sigh. “Fine. I’ll tell you. But you gotta promise not to laugh at my pitiful existence.”

She giggles and holds up three fingers. “Scout’s honor.”

So you tell her. You tell her about the fights, which she was already far too aware of. You tell her about the elevator, which she was not. You tell her how it just kept going, how it spiraled out of control. You tell her how it stopped being about lust and started being about something else. You tell her how you’re almost positive that Sollux was starting to feel the same.

You tell her about Aradia, and how awful you feel. You tell her about the night she sang that song. You tell her that Sollux hasn’t even been able to stand the sight of you since, on the incredibly rare occasion that you do actually see him.

And when you’re finished, she just looks at you for a long moment. You wonder briefly if she’s going to start yelling. But suddenly she’s pulling you forward, and your face buries itself in the crook of her neck as she’s holding you tight and rubbing circles into your back, and you don’t even realize that you’re crying until she softly shushes you and tells you not to be upset, that everything will be alright.

“I don’t see how it ever could be,” you sniff, pulling back and swiping at your eyes. “Kar was right, I fucked everythin’ up royally.”

“What, and Sollux did nothing wrong?” she says skeptically. “It wasn’t just you!”

You try to reign yourself in, control your breathing, but it’s hard. “Doesn’t matter whose fault it is. It’s still fucked.”

Feferi sighs and takes your hand. “Eridan, remember when I left?”

Like you could forget. “No actually, I don’t quite recall,” you answer drily.

She laughs a little. “Don’t be a smartass! I’m trying to make an important point!”

You manage to smile and indicate with your free hand that she may continue. “By all means, princess.”

“I thought the same thing you’re thinking now. I thought, ‘everything’s fucked, maybe I should just walk away.’ And you know, for a little while, it felt like the right thing to do. I think we both needed a little space. But before long, a little space became too much space. I started to miss the band. I started to miss you. Everything from your grumpy attitude to your stupid purple hair.” She smiles and runs her free hand teasingly through your dyed streak. You can’t help a self-deprecating chuckle, even as you swat her hand away.

“And I started to think, maybe walking away wasn’t the best idea. Maybe I should have tried harder to stay.”

Your eyes start to water again. “I pushed you away, Fef,” you tell her weakly.

“And I let you,” she replies, gripping both of your hands now. “We both had a chance to fix it, but we didn’t. I regret that, and I’m sure you do too. But look at us now!” She leans in, looking at you earnestly. “It’s never too late.”

She pulls back, giving you a moment to let the words sink in, but she doesn’t let go of your hands. For this, you are grateful.

“I…” You clear your throat and offer her a weak smile. “I’m real glad you’re here, Fef. I’ve missed you too. A lot.”

There’s no better feeling in the world than being on the receiving end of one of her smiles. (Well, you can actually think of one or two things now…but you push them to the back of your mind.) But it doesn’t feel the same way it did back then, when your heart would start to pound and your palms would get sweaty and you’d feel a flutter in your stomach. Now, it just feels warm and comfortable. It feels like home.

Feferi kisses you on the cheek. “Now, I hope you see the parallel I’m trying to draw here. I know it’s a different situation, but it’s still applicable!”

“So you’re sayin’ I should try to talk to Sol?” you ask skeptically.

“I’m saying that a little bit of space is a good thing. But you should never just walk away and give up.” It’s hard to accept, but you know she’s right, so you nod. “I think you should give him a few more days to put himself back together, but first…I think you should talk to Aradia.”

Just the thought makes you cringe, and suddenly the guilt starts weighing down on you. “Why me?”

“Because what you did to her was wrong,” she explains, her tone still calm. Her nature is not one of condescension, but you can’t help feeling like a child being scolded. “You knowingly engaged in activities that hurt her. Now, I know you may not have realized the extent of the damage, or thought much about the impact, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was wrong. And I believe that she at least has the right to know exactly what happened. If I know Sollux, he’s probably locked himself away in his room, shut the world out. He probably hasn’t spoken a word to her since that night. And if he’s not going to explain everything to her, then you’re the next best option.”

You let out a frustrated sigh and run your hands over your face. “I wish it had never come to this point. I never meant for it to go this far.”

She removes your hands from your face and looks at you with such gentleness, such understanding. “I know.”

It’s impossible to express how much she means to you, so you pull her close and press her against you, and she hugs you like her life depends on it. “Thank you, Fef. Thank you for comin’ back.”

Her head buries into your chest. “Love you, Eridan.”

And although you don’t mean it in the same way that you did several months ago, you sure as hell still mean it. “Love you, too.”

 

 

Eridan: Talk to her.

You really don’t wanna do it. You really, really don’t wanna do it. But Feferi was right. You feel awful. She has the right to know the truth.

She’s in one of the practice rooms at school, her preferred room, the same one the two of you have shared several times to write songs. From the looks of it she’s working on one right now, guitar in her lap and writing pad on the music stand next to her. Doesn’t look like she’s making much progress though, considering the furious scribbles covering the page.

“Hey, Eridan,” she says, and she sounds tired, worn out. She was always an ember, glowing with light, but the spark from her eyes is gone. You’re the one who put it out. You try to stop your hands from shaking as you close the door behind you.

“Ari,” you greet her, and she smiles just a little at the nickname. She told you once that she loves when you called her that. “Can I talk to you?”

“Sure,” she nods, moving her bag and her empty guitar case from the chair next to her so you can sit.

You take a deep breath and sit down next to her, shoving your hands between your knees to stop the jitters. “Look, I…I need to tell you somethin’.”

“It’s about Sollux, isn’t it?” she says, her face falling just slightly.

Crap. Does she know already? But there’s something so innocent about the way she’s looking at you. “Yeah, I—”

“I figured,” she interrupts, sighing. “It’s all anyone can talk about lately. You’d think at our age, people would care about more than just silly gossip. There are so many more important things, like actually graduating college.”

“Right,” you nod, going along with anything she says. “I’m not tryin’ to gossip, I just wanted to tell you—”

“And I’ve been so stressed lately, because it somehow never occurred to me that joining this band would eat up all of my free time, and I hardly have time to focus on my career goals, you know? I’ve been trying to work towards a scholarship with the study abroad program so I can get some experience in an actual archeological environment—how exciting would that be?”

“Sure,” you agree, hoping that she’s finished now. “But listen, you oughta know—”

“Plus, this whole situation with…you know…is just too much for me on top of it all…” she says, and the brief flash of excitement that she’d displayed just now vanishes as quickly as it had appeared. Your heart sinks even lower in your chest, if possible. “I mean, we were together for two years, and I just don’t understand how—”

“It’s my fault,” you blurt.

She finally shuts up and looks at you, eyes wide with confusion. “Eridan, what? Don’t be silly,” she tells you, laughing nervously. “What are you talking about?”

You take a deep breath, brace yourself. “See, it was kinda an accident an’ I don’t really know how it happened but I…Sol an’ me, we…we were messin’ around.”

She blinks, not catching on. “You were what?”

God, this is hard. You shake your head, trying to find the words. “We were messin’ around. You know, like…” You make some sort of ridiculous hand gesture. “That way. An’ that’s why he…yeah.”

Aradia goes deadly still. “Oh,” she says, but all of the color has drained from her face.

“I’m sorry,” you say quickly, trying to fill up the deafening silence that’s settling around you, “It’s my fault an’ I’m sorry, I never intended to hurt anyone, this whole thing just kinda spiraled out a’ control an’ I’m not even sure how it happened myself. It just sorta…” and you trail off, seeing that your words are having little effect.

She’s just sitting there, so quiet. It’s unbearable.

It seems like forever before she speaks again. “I sort of suspected that he was seeing someone else. I just didn’t know who.” She laughs a little, looking down at her hands. “All this time, I wanted you two to be friends. I never would have thought…”

It feels like you’re being repeatedly stabbed in the chest. Every ounce of cold dread that you’d felt that night comes rushing back to you, you’re drowning in it. “I know it doesn’t mean much, but I wish I could express to you how sorry I feel.”

But she’s checked out, hardly paying attention to you, like you’re not even there. She’s in her own head, no doubt turning over every memory, looking for the evidence that she missed, wondering how she could have missed it. “How long?” she asks, her tone still soft.

You fidget uncomfortably. “Somewhere ‘round the end of January, beginnin’ of February.”

It’s not really a nod, more of a curt jerk of the head. She’s still not looking at you, and it’s awful. You actually want her to scream at you, to tell you how fucked up you are, to validate this horrific guilt. But she’s unnervingly calm, and rather than filled with sharp fury, her eyes are blank. Empty.

The silence in the room couldn’t be more deafening. It’s actually suffocating; you wouldn’t be able to speak even if you wanted to, even if there were any more words to be said. You keep waiting for her to snap, to break, to stand up and throw a chair at you, but she just sits there.

You can’t take it any longer. You stand and excuse yourself, slipping past the music stands to the door. The knob is in your grip when she stops you with a soft call of your name. It’s impossible to look at her, so you don’t turn around, though you stop.

“Just one more thing that I need to know,” she says, and her gentle tone is heart crushing. “Was it just a physical thing? Or was it deeper than that?”

It would be easy to lie to her. She can’t even see your face right now; nothing would give you away. But you can’t lie to this girl, not anymore. Still, it takes a long moment to form the right answer.

“At first, it was lust,” you reply, your voice nearly as quiet as hers. “But then I…I really fell for him. An’ I thought…I thought that maybe, he mighta…”

You finish with a weak shrug, because you can’t speak for his side of it. There was something in the way he looked at you, in the way he said your name that told you he had to have felt the same, even a little bit, but you just don’t know.

Aradia makes a small sound of acknowledgment, and you think it’s also a dismissal, so you go, exiting the room and closing the door behind you with a click.

In the hallway, you take a deep breath, filling your lungs with the air that had been sucked out in that room, but it doesn’t make you feel any better.

 

 

Eridan: Prepare for tonight's show.

The equipment is glitching. No one knows how to fix it, not even Equius. The only person who would be able to fix it wants nothing to do with the band anymore.

But it’s getting worse and worse, and Karkat is getting desperate, so after what must have been copious amounts of begging, Sollux shows up one day to tend to the problems. You watch him from afar, heart racing just from the mere sight of him. Aradia has vanished into thin air, it seems, as she is nowhere to be found. Everyone else is doing their own thing, getting ready for the show later that evening.

It takes a tremendous amount of courage, but after watching him for what felt like ages, you finally approach him as he’s messing with the wires for one of the amps. He definitely sees you out of the corner of his eye, but he doesn’t look up, doesn’t stop what he’s doing, doesn’t acknowledge your existence.

“Sol,” you say, though you’re not sure what should follow. “Sol, can I just…” But it hardly matters, because he continues to pretend that you’re not really there.

“Please, we should really talk,” you insist, but he’s completely closed off, bent over the wires with his shoulders square and tense.

It’s useless. He’s not going to answer you or even acknowledge your existence, so you try to swallow past the knot in your throat and turn around, leaving him to do his job.

The moment everything seems patched he books it the hell out of there. He doesn't even stay to do the sound check.

The venue sound booth guy does it instead. He's a right pain in the ass. Sollux was too, but it was okay, because it was him.

After the sound check, Karkat calls the usual pre-show meeting, but before he can say anything, Aradia asks to take the floor. He gives it to her, seemingly caught off guard.

"There's something I need to tell you guys," she says, looking around almost nervously. "This...this will be my last show with Arsenic Aquarium."

The room erupts. Everyone starts talking at once, spewing questions, comments, exclamations of surprise. Your stomach drops like it did when Fef told you the same thing, but you don't say anything. No one shuts up until Karkat begins threatening bodily harm, upon which everyone tapers off and looks to Aradia for an explanation.

"I'm sorry that I waited so long to tell you guys," she tells you with obvious guilt. "It was just...a really hard decision, and every time I tried to bring it up I just...chickened out, I guess."

"But why are you leaving?" Nepeta questions, followed by several nods and affirmations of the same question. You're almost positive you know the answer, and it makes you feel sick.

She looks down, wrings her hands together, gathers her thoughts. "It's a number of reasons. I honestly never considered how much of a time commitment it would be, which of course was stupid of me. I have my studies to think about, a potential career on the line. This summer I'm applying for an internship that could be exactly what I need to get started on the path to my dream job! And once that begins, I really won't have the time to jam with you guys, as much as I love it."

You're sure that there's gotta be more to it than that. But as everyone nods and makes noises of understanding and reluctant acceptance, she looks up and adds: "I don't want anyone in this room to think it's their fault that I'm leaving." And her eyes linger on you for far too long.

Somehow, her kindness stings more than any well-deserved coldness.

"But what are we supposed to do after you're gone?" Vriska asks with a scowl, crossing her arms. "Just go and pull another female lead out of thin air?"

"Well, that's the good news," Aradia answers, smiling slightly. "I've been talking to Feferi...and she wants to come back."

Everyone explodes again, talking all at once so that it's impossible to tell what anyone is actually saying. Some people look pleased, while some still look confused and disappointed, and still others seem caught in the middle, happy to have Feferi back but sad to see Aradia go. The brief spark of joy you feel as your mind races with excited thoughts is quickly dampened when you notice the sadness in Aradia's smile.

Karkat takes over the meeting from there, giving one of his usual speeches, and then everyone tightens the circle and puts their hands in the center. All eyes go to Aradia, who's starting to tear up, and in response she's immediately showered with love. You can't find the right words, but you hope the smile you're sending her way says enough.

Rather than the usual "Arsenic Aquarium!" on three, tonight everyone proclaims, "For Aradia!" A tear rolls down her cheek as she laughs, and Equius brushes it away with his thumb, telling her not to ruin her pretty makeup. He turns away too soon to catch the curious look she gives him.

The circle disperses, everyone heading in separate directions to get ready. You start to head off as well, but Aradia catches your arm before you can go.

She looks at you with such earnest eyes, and you're amazed to find not a trace of bitterness or anger in them. On top of it all, she's offering you a smile. "Let's make this show a good one, okay? I want my last one to be my best."

It's the one thing that you can do for her, the only way you can ever even begin to make it up to her. So you return her smile, difficult as it is, and make her a promise.

"I can guarantee you that this is gonna be an amazin' show, Ari," you nod.

She squeezes your arm gently and nods as well, and then she's off, leaving you with the burden of that promise. But you will do everything that you can to keep it. It's the only thing you can give to her.

Chapter Text

Eridan: Enjoy the rush of an awesome show.

Everyone pours backstage, talking all at once about what a great show it was. To your surprise, Aradia seeks you out, fixes you with a warm grin before wrapping her arms around your back and burying her face in your chest. You stand frozen for a moment, caught entirely off guard, before you reciprocate, hugging her tightly and resting your chin on her head, hoping you can convey all the words you can't get out.

She pulls back and takes your hand, leading you away from the enthusiastic group, away from prying eyes and ears. Suddenly you're nervous again, wondering irrationally if she's finally going to yell at you. But she just stops in front of you and smiles that lovely smile, and you know that she doesn't have it in her to deliver the nasty words you deserve.

"I wanted to thank you, Eridan," she tells you earnestly.

Obviously you didn't hear her correctly, so you shake your head and give her an incredulous look. "W-what?"

She squeezes the hand she never dropped and repeats herself. "I wanted to thank you."

You just stare at her, blinking, wondering what on earth she could possibly be saying. You'd think it was a cruel joke or some particularly cutting sarcasm if you didn't know her better.

"For...for what?" you ask in a small voice, and you can feel your stomach churning with unease.

"Several things," she answers. "Firstly, for tonight. I don't know what we did out there, but somehow we kicked it into maximum overdrive, and it was fucking awesome."

It's hard not to smile just a little bit in response to that, especially considering how infrequently she drops the F-bomb. "Yeah, I guess it was," you agree.

"Secondly, for giving me this amazing experience. These past few months have been such an incredible journey, and I owe it all to this band."

"But that wasn't me," you protest. "I didn't even want you to join, at first."

"I know," she nods, "but you welcomed me anyway. We developed this crazy chemistry out on that stage. We played off each other so well. You helped me with my playing and my songwriting. We became friends."

You keep shaking your head, unable to accept her gratitude. "But that make it all the worse that I fuckin' went behind your back the way I did."

She takes a moment to consider that. "You said it started at the end of January, right?" Nodnod. "Eridan, at the end of January, you knew me for a grand total of...what, a month? We weren't friends yet."

The logic feels sort of skewed, but you get what she's trying to say. "Still, I should'a stopped once we became friends."

"Yeah, you should have," she agrees. "And I’m not gonna lie, I still think the whole thing was incredibly shitty. But at least you told me. You told me the truth, and you apologized. And I know it was sincere."

You can't understand why she's defending you, why she's justifying your crap. You give her a miserable look, but her eyes are so comforting. "It was Fef's idea," you admit.

"But you still did it," she smiles. "And that is my third reason to thank you."

A deep sigh escapes your lips, most of you still unable to accept her words. "I...you're welcome, I guess, but I still think you're bein' far too nice to me. I don't deserve it."

Aradia takes your other hand and makes sure you're looking at her. "When I first joined this band, I heard...things. About you. And some of them were not very nice."

Normally you might cringe, but you've been waiting for this. Not to mention, you're pretty much used to your shit reputation. It's hardly a surprise anymore, the things people say.

"And you know. You can be a jerk. You can be surly. You can even be a bit of a diva. But guess what? Everyone in this band is a little bit of an asshole. And when I look at you, Eridan, when I heard you sing, when we wrote songs together and got sidetracked into ridiculous stories of high school and your old swim team and my dog and the time your dad took you and Feferi fishing and she fell overboard and you dove in to save her, even though she was always a better swimmer than you—I saw so much more in you. I still do. And I wish everyone else could see it, too."

You blink quickly, trying to stop the tears that are threatening to well up. "I—you have an incredibly big heart, Ari."

She grips your hands tightly. “And yours is so much bigger than anyone gives you credit for.”

It’s impossible to form words from your thoughts right now, so you pull her in for another hug instead, which she responds to eagerly.

And then she withdraws, but before she can walk away you stop her with one last, "Ari?"

"...Thank you."

Her gaze meets yours over her shoulder. She doesn't say anything, but she smiles. You think this time it reaches her eyes.

 

 

Late that night you toss and turn, unable to fall asleep even after all the excitement of the concert. You feel exhausted, both physically and emotionally, but your mind is in overdrive. The thoughts just won't stop racing.

Eventually you can't take it any longer. You sit up, flick on the lamp, grab the notebook that always sits on your nightstand in case inspiration strikes at night.

And it has. So you flip to a clean page and you begin to write.

You can only hope that this song will be enough.

 

 

 

Sollux: Do the right thing.

Apprehension fills you as you approach the door, and it takes a special kind of strength (and maybe a little bit of masochism) to knock on it. A moment later the door swings partway open and you find yourself fixed with the most frightening death glare you’ve ever received.

“Hey Damara,” you greet her warily, trying not to shrink under the force of her gaze.

Aradia’s half-sister has always been scary, but the daggers currently shooting from her eyes are actually making you fear for your life. “You must have a death wish to show your face here,” she hisses, her near-black eyes narrowing to slits.

“I know, I know,” you say, holding your hands up defensively. “But I really need to talk to her. I just need to explain—”

“You don’t deserve the chance to explain yourself,” she snaps, tapping her long, dark red nails against the doorframe. You’re suddenly hyper-aware of how sharp they look.

“No, I don’t,” you agree. “But doesn’t she deserve an explanation?”

This catches Damara off guard, and she drops the murderous look for about a second as she thinks this one over. But the aggressive stance is back a moment later as she bites out, “You’ve done enough damage. Get the fuck out of here.”

Damn. For a moment, you almost thought you had her there. “Please,” you say helplessly. “What I did was the worst kind of awful and there’s no forgiving it. But I need to talk to her, just one last time, and then I’ll leave her alone for as long as she needs. Forever, if that’s what she wants. Just let me in.”

But Damara is not having it. “You broke. My sister’s. Heart. And I’m about ten seconds away from breaking your neck. Got it?”

You’re very close to conceding defeat and leaving, trying some other time, when a hand appears on Damara’s arm and a soft voice speaks.

“It’s okay, ‘Mara. This needs to happen. Give us some time?”

With the most frustrated of growls, Damara removes herself from the doorway. “Fine. I’m gonna go have a smoke downstairs. Call me if you need me to come back up and kick his ass, yeah?”

And after shooting you one last nasty look, she grabs her purse and shoulders past you towards the elevator. Aradia opens the door the rest of the way and beckons you inside. Normally, she might smile sheepishly at her sister’s behavior and apologize. Today, she does neither of those things.

Looking at her makes your heart hurt. That ever-present smile is gone because of you.

She sits on one end of the couch. You sit at the other end. Neither of you sits back against the cushions; her back is stiff and straight and your muscles are tense and ready to leap up at any moment.

“Eridan told me everything,” she says finally after a prolonged silence. You nod, because Karkat already filled you in on that. “You should’ve been the one to tell me,” she adds in a clipped tone, and you nod again because she’s absolutely right.

She looks expectantly at you now, and you’re not sure what she’s waiting for but your palms are starting to sweat. You’re wiping them nervously on your legs when she says, “Well? You said something to ‘Mara about an explanation. Where is it?” There’s a hostility in her gaze that you’ve never seen from her before.

“Oh. Well, uh…” All that begging, and now that it’s time to speak, you have nothing to say. Whose idea was this? It was definitely Karkat’s. You’re gonna punch him in the face. Stupid good-for-nothing roommate. “I…I guess it started when he kissed me.”

Aradia quirks an eyebrow but doesn’t say anything. You wonder how much Eridan told her, exactly.

You sigh. And then you explain everything. In excruciating detail sometimes, and even though she looks like each word is a strike against her she seems determined to hear you out.

Somehow, in explaining it all to her, you start to understand things you never really understood before. Some pieces click into place, ones you didn’t even realize were missing. You even have to stop once or a twice as realization strikes. About Eridan. About everything. In your head, you quietly shelve those realizations and decide to examine them later.

When you finish, she nods and takes a deep breath. “My turn.” You brace yourself.

“What you did was awful. Terrible. You hurt me really badly, and I’m still not okay with it. And no matter what excuses you come up with, whatever “duality” bullcrap you justify it with, it will never be okay.”

You sit there and take it, because you deserve it. She’s getting heated now, and actually stands up off the couch, pacing around the living room floor.

“And the worst part was you made me feel like it was my fault, you know? Like this whole time I thought maybe I was doing something wrong, I wasn’t interesting enough or pretty enough, or maybe I was being too clingy or too pushy. But it wasn’t my fault, it was yours because you got caught up in a lie and you couldn’t man up and set things right. And you just let it go on and on and get more and more involved, digging that hole deeper and deeper until you couldn’t climb back out. Then you let the dirt collapse over your head, and even THEN you didn’t try to dig your way out, you just hid in your little hole and let freaking Eridan tell me the truth because you were too much of a coward to own up to it.”

Yeah, you definitely wince at that. But you can’t even be mad because she’s right.

“I forgave Eridan, you know. I hate what he did, but I forgave him. Because he had the balls to do the right thing and tell me everything. He didn’t have to do that. He wasn’t the one in a committed relationship with me. You were. And you’re such a piece of shit, Sollux Captor.”

She stops for a moment, presses the heels of her hands against her eyes like she’s trying not to cry. Takes a deep breath or two.

“But you’re not. I’m super unimpressed with you as a human being right now, but you’re not a piece of shit. You did a terrible thing, but that doesn’t make you a terrible person. I still care about you. And because I’m the bigger, better person, I want you to be happy. I wish you could have been happy with me, but since that clearly wasn’t the case I think you should go ahead and find what does make you happy. And if it’s Eridan, well…” She trails off with a vague hand motion and a shrug.

You stare at her incredulously, not really believing what you’re hearing. Is she seriously giving her blessing? “AA—Aradia, I—”

She shakes her head, cutting you off. “Save it. You said your piece, and I said mine. And now I’m gonna need you to give me some space for a while, because I’m still righteously pissed off.”

So that’s that. You nod slowly and stand up, smoothing out the creases in your pants. “Right. I understand.” That’s something you can give her, at least. Space is exactly what the two of you need. You head towards the front door, and she just stands and watches you go, her arms wrapped tightly around her chest.

But you can’t help stopping before you get to the door, looking at her one last time. “I wish words were sufficient to express how sorry I am. Truly.”

She looks at you for a long moment, and then she almost seems to smile. “Give me a month or two. Then come talk to me again.”

You nod and give her half a smile. “Sure. I can do that.” And as you leave, despite the verbal pounding you just received, your chest feels just a little bit lighter.

 

 

 

Karkat: Whip these assholes back into shape.

Although Aradia’s departure certainly throws a wrench into the works, it’s not as bad as it could have been. You’re lucky that she had already worked it out with Feferi, who would resume her rightful position. And you’re definitely lucky that Feferi has been in this role before, and already knows all the ropes.

She knows most of the songs, excluding the occasional new ones, but you have to make sure she isn’t rusty. You’re absolutely determined to make sure everything is running smoothly. So you make the most of your slightly-less-than-three-week hiatus and initiate near-daily practice sessions.

Unfortunately, it’s the end of the semester, which means everyone’s weighed down with projects and finals and papers on top of it all. By the end of the first week, everyone hates you. By the end of the second week, everyone is wishing a slow and painful death upon you.

Everyone except Feferi, that is. She had always been bubbly, but now she’s even more energetic than usual, throwing herself wholeheartedly into the music. It’s obvious that she really missed it, and she seems so happy to be a part of it once more.

And sometimes, when everyone is at their absolute lowest—after Nepeta threw a temper tantrum and kicked everyone out of their studio and forbid the use of the practice space until she’d finished her Environmental Studies paper, after Gamzee showed up too stoned to play his part and Vriska actually punched him in the face, after Eridan literally threw himself to the ground and declared that he was going to fail his Economics final and his father was going to murder him—it was Feferi who slapped some sense into everyone and retained the group’s sanity.

She made Nepeta some herbal tea and left her alone in her room with relaxing music and some sort of strange aromatherapy thing, declared the studio a quiet zone for the next 24 hours and acquired a practice room at school for the band. She held an ice pack to Gamzee’s face and talked both him and Vriska down, miraculously extracting an apology from both of them. She brought Eridan to his feet and spoke softly to him, promising to help him study until he aced that final. She even managed to coax a few smiles out of every grumpy face.

You start to feel useless, watching her take care of everyone. She’s like some natural-born leader, and you’re just the obnoxious drill sergeant. But when you reluctantly express this to her one day when she asks you what’s wrong, she just laughs and shakes her head.

“Karkrab, you’re the heart of this band and everyone knows it. Without you, we would have fallen apart before we even got started. You’re drilling us right now because you care, and you want us to be the best we can be, right? So don’t you get those silly little notions in your silly little head. We need you.” She finishes with a kiss on the cheek, and you can’t hold back a smile.

“I’m glad you’re back, Feferi,” you tell her honestly.

She grins and does a little twirl, throwing her hands up with a dramatic flourish. “And I’m ecstatic to be back! Now come on, let’s get to work!”

You tried to instate a no-new-music rule, insisting that Feferi had enough new stuff to catch up on as it is and you can’t have anyone breaking out any more dramatic new songs, but Eridan practically falls to his knees and begs for you to allow one exception. You’re stubborn, but he’s worse, and after hours of begging you finally and begrudgingly concede once he shows you what he’s written and you decide that it’s actually pretty good. Luckily, it doesn’t take anyone too long to pick it up, and it becomes a fixture of the first setlist.

The first show after Feferi’s return is on May 17th. The last day of finals is May 15th. So on Thursday the 16th, you decide to throw a Fruity Assholes Jamboree. It’s two parts practice session, one part celebration. Nepeta and Equius graciously welcome everyone back into their home, providing more than enough chips and soda, and halfway through the night you order a few pizzas. Nepeta feels confident in her essay, and Eridan is sure he got at least an A- on his final.

Gamzee’s in his usual comfortable haze, but seems to be in full control of himself and his playing. He even brought a pie that he’d baked. Vriska smirks as she gossips with Terezi and Kanaya, while Tavros awkwardly tries to insert himself into the conversation. Everyone’s there except, predictably, Sollux, who is continuing to be the most stubborn bastard you’ve ever met.

Even Aradia stops by, just for a little bit, and everyone greets her happily. She and Feferi seem to have hit it off, and they shoot the breeze while everyone takes a break from rehearsing. Equius’ cheeks are tinted red as he offers her a slice of pie and she gives him one of her warmest smiles.

All in all, everyone finally seems happy. And although there’s a little too much lollygagging and not quite enough practicing that night, you’re convinced that tomorrow night is going to be a fantastic show.

 

 

 

Eridan: Set the plan into motion.

Sollux still refuses to show up, even though Aradia's done now, even though Feferi's back and they've always been close. All this does is confirm your fears that he's directly avoiding you, that he just plain does not want to see you. It sort of puts a damper on your plans, but you're not gonna give up so easily.

You leave the final rehearsal a few minutes early, making up some excuse and jetting out of there before Karkat or Tavros or Gamzee can get back home. It takes every last ounce of courage you have (and a buttload of encouraging words from Feferi), but you show up at their door and knock with trembling hands.

Clearly Sollux doesn't bother to make use of the peephole, judging by the look on his face when he opens the door. He stares at you like a deer in headlights and makes no motion to either shut you out or invite you in.

"Sol," you greet him, hoping that your voice doesn't give you away.

"...Ampora," he says after a moment. You wince internally, unable to remember the last time he called you by your last name.

You shift your feet awkwardly, suddenly forgetting every line you had planned out. "So uh, Fef's back in the band. Did you hear?"

He blinks at you. "My roommate is the manager," he reminds you. "Yes, I heard."

"Right," you chuckle nervously, "a' course. I just figured, you know, it might be a' interest to you."

"Why are you here?" he asks you bluntly. "Karkat's not back yet."

"I know he's not," you reply. "I just...I was wonderin' if maybe...Look, there's somethin' I would really like you to hear. An' I thought if you're not busy, maybe you could swing by the show tomorrow night."

He just keeps staring, and his face is impossible to read. After a prolonged moment of silence, you quietly add: "It...would really mean a lot to me if you did. I know everythin' is fucked an' all, but..." You shrug. He keeps staring. "...Please."

It's really unfair how good his poker face is.

You clear your throat awkwardly and nod. “…Right. Well, uh. See you around, I guess.”

He remains silent as you turn your back on him and walk away. He doesn’t try to stop you.

Chapter Text

Sollux: Give in.

You tried to stay away. You really did.

But on the night of May 17th, when 8:30 PM rolls around, you let out a string of curses and push yourself out of your computer chair.

They don't go on till 9:30 (they're headlining tonight), but you've got to get moving if you want to make it. So you put on real clothes, run your fingers through your hair in a half-hearted attempt to tame it, and book it out the door, all the while mentally cursing yourself and everyone in this stupid band.

You're grateful that it's a nice night, considering you didn't bother to wear much more than a light hoodie. It occurred to you as you threw it on that your green one is still in Eridan's apartment.

Luckily, Alternia isn't far from home. They let you in when you flash your official "I'm with the band" nonsense, and you walk in to the end of Turntech Testified's set.

Instinctively, you feel pleased that they're opening for your—uh, their band. It doesn't mean much, considering you—rather, they have opened for TT before, but still. It makes you feel just a little bit superior. Even though you shouldn't feel that way anymore.

It's right that they're headlining tonight. Tonight is FF's first night back, and it's kind of a big deal. The band didn't officially announce her return (KK said it was meant to be a surprise), but considering AA announced her departure last time and the band's official facebook page and official twitter and official site all say that there's going to be an extra special guest tonight, all the fans seem to have come to the conclusion that she's returning, so the house is packed. You can hardly see the stage from where you're stuffed at the back of the room. It's tough to make it through the crowd, especially since no one seems to recognize who you are (though really, why would they), but you have sharp elbows and the advantage of height, so you manage to push yourself to somewhere in the middle.

You've seen TT perform so many times that you hardly find yourself paying attention any longer, drifting instead into a dangerous territory of thought. Frankly, the idea of watching Eridan perform again gives you the jitters, especially since he specifically invited you to listen to something in particular. You can't help wondering if he's gonna try to seduce you again, like he did all those months ago.

Something tells you it's not going to be quite so shallow.

To be honest, you feel like shit every time you think about him. At first it was because you needed someone to blame, and he was the most likely candidate. As much of a cliché as it is, you didn't realize what you had with Aradia until you lost it, and if it wasn't for him, you'd still have it.

But it didn't take long for you to realize that the fault was your own, just as Aradia had hammered home. You're the one who cheated. You knew all along it was wrong, you knew you should have stopped, but you couldn't bring yourself to give it up. Somehow (as shitty of an excuse as it was) in some sick and twisted sort of way, having warm, loving Aradia and cold, rough Eridan fulfilled your bizarre need for duality.

Until Eridan wasn't cold and rough. Until somehow, the two almost seemed to switch places. And by then, you were in way too deep.

When you lifted the blame from Eridan and placed it on yourself instead, the burden became too much to bear. The more you thought about how broken that boy was, and how you only managed to break him even further, the worse you felt, until it was your own guilt that kept you away. You couldn't stand to see him, knowing how badly you'd fucked with him. And it took you forever to even consider talking to Aradia, cowardly as it was. You thought maybe it would be better for everyone if you just disappeared, left them to recover and move on without you.

But here you are, and as TT finishes and the crowd cheers them off the stage, the butterflies start to flutter. You take the time to pull yourself together as Tavros and the roadies clear the stage, set up the band's equipment. You remind yourself to breathe as Equius and Gamzee and Kanaya and Vriska come out and ready their instruments.

Your heart nearly beats out of your chest when Eridan enters the stage.

He looks unfairly attractive as usual, wearing black skinny jeans and purple hi-tops, a white button-up shirt that is undone at the top with rolled up sleeves, and a deep purple vest. Screams fill the room, a few girls shout their love to him. The shouts continue into the start of their first number, one of Eridan's solo numbers. There is no female vocalist.

The band rocks it, as usual. There is a strange electricity to the room. Maybe it's because you've never actually watched from within the crowd, you've always been stuck in your booth. You've never really felt the energy of the people around you, jumping and shouting every word. You can feel every beat of Equius' drums, every note of Gamzee's bass. It's exhilarating.

But your eyes never leave Eridan. He's a natural born performer.

Usually when the first number is over, they go straight into their second, saving all their introductions and such for later. But they stop now, and Eridan smiles into the microphone, looking around at the crowd. His eyes never land on you, and you know that he can't see you.

"So I'm sure you've all heard that we got a special guest here tonight..." he says teasingly, and people start to cheer before he can even finish. "Have any guesses as to who it might be?"

Half the room begins to shout Feferi's name. The other half is mixed between a strange sort of "WOOO", a "NO", and a few other strange names thrown out there.

Vriska sighs and shakes her head. "Eridan, you teeeeeeeease! Why are you telling them that there's a special guest? There's definitely no guest here tonight!"

This is answered by shouts of protest, no one really believing her.

"I'm afraid Vriska's right," Kanaya adds somberly. "No guests to be found on this stage."

"Of course I'm right," Vriska nods. "No guests. But we do have a new band member!"

"Well, I don't know if I'd call her "new", exactly..." Eridan grins. Taking her cue, Feferi comes bounding out onto the stage, beaming wildly. The room goes nuts. You cringe as the girls behind you shriek directly into your ear.

"HELLOOOO NEW YORK CITY!!" FF exclaims brightly, taking her proper place in front of her mic. The screaming continues. You smile just a bit, happy to see her return. Still, part of you is always going to see Aradia in front of that microphone.

They start right away with one of their old hits, and everyone is still going wild as Feferi grabs the mic and dives right in. She's beaming, radiating pure adrenaline and excitement and joy, filling the room with her passion. While Eridan has always been one of those stand-in-one-place kind of lead singers, Feferi is the kind that literally never stops moving, that bounces from one end of the stage to the other, leaping all over the place and rocking out with the other band members and somehow never getting short on breath as she sings.

Your gaze turns to Eridan as he sings in response to her lines, and quite honestly, you can't recall the last time you saw him looking that happy. He's watching Feferi with an unmistakable adoration, and you can't help the pang of jealousy you feel. It's not the same way that he looks at you. But you have no way of knowing which look means more.

Still, you convince yourself to stop thinking about it, distract yourself by watching FF's antics. She's doing some sort of weird head banging thing with Vriska, and it's hard not to chuckle at that.

When the duet is over, Eridan rightfully steps aside and lets her take a crack at one of her favorite solos. You didn't notice until now how much you've missed having her around, watching her perform. The crowd around you seems to feel the same, shouting their love as she dominates the room.

After the solo come two more classic duets, one flowing right into the other, though they couldn't be more opposite in theme. She gets another of her old solos after that, and though a tiny piece of you wants to watch Eridan (and simultaneously doesn’t, at the same time) you know that it's right for the focus to be on her.

Eventually it comes time for the usual slow-down-and-play-some-acoustic-shit part of the show. Their voices blend wonderfully, the pair of lifelong friends, and you picture them as children, growing up together, going out on their family boats and singing together and imagining a day like this, a day where they get to do what they love and, in turn, be loved for doing it.

The song comes to a close, the music stops, and Feferi takes the mic and looks at her fellow lead singer with a warm smile. "Eridan has a new song he'd like to play for you guys tonight. How does that sound?"

Your stomach drops, because this is it. This is the reason he invited you to this show, it must be. The screams of approval sound like white noise in your ears.

"Good to hear!" She giggles. "So I'll be back in a few, but I want you all to really give this a listen, okay? Every one of you!"

She puts the mic back in the stand, gives Eridan a quick peck on the cheek, and scampers off the stage. Your eyes focus on Eridan now, and all the happiness he'd been exuding before has been replaced by nerves. But you know this because you know him, and he's doing a surprisingly good job of putting on a calm air.

"This is...a song that means a lot to me," he says, his voice low. "As for who it's dedicated to...well, I think they know. I just hope they're listenin'."

You close your eyes, take a deep breath. Open them. He's doing the same.

And then he's playing.

It's slow, but it's not acoustic. It's thick, rich. Everyone is playing. But your eyes are only for him.

"And I don't know what you want from me, I've been tossing and turning in my bed, losing sleep over this, and I don't know what I need to do."

His eyes are closed, his lips pressed against the mic, his fingers automatically finding the right notes. He's putting everything into this.

"Who I am lately is not who I want to be," he confesses. "Listen up to me, I could be anything for you."

No one's screaming. Everyone is captivated.

"What would you say, what would you do? If I was to say...I'd wait here for you," he asks, begs. "Would you cast me away? Or say that we're through? Cause I won't be giving up, giving up on me and you...that's the last thing that I'd ever do."

You can't move. You can't really breathe, either. There is nothing in this world but this moment, that boy, those notes, that voice. There is no one in this room but him and you. It feels like time has stopped, your heart has stopped, the Earth has stopped.

"And I know that I have done wrong, but I'm trying to make it all right, cause I've been to the edge and I've seen what could be...and all I know, is now I can see that.. who I am lately is not who I want to be. Listen up to me, I could be anything for you..."

His eyes are still squeezed shut, like he's terrified to open them, like he's terrified to look around this room and see you...or maybe, not to see you at all. It occurs to you that he has no idea if you're even there.

The chorus comes again and it kills you, a knife in the heart, a sharp pain. Sharp but beautiful, gorgeous.

"Rewrite the end of this, I made a mess of it, torn it to shreds.. I frayed all the ends, but I'm holding together the pieces of whatever's left," he cries, and it hurts to hear him like that, especially knowing that it wasn't him, it was you, it was all you.

And then his voice drops, and he's whispering the chorus, praying: "what would you say? what would you do? if I was to say...I'd wait here for you, would you cast me away? or say that we're through?" and it comes up again, and he promises, declares: "Cause I won't be giving up, giving up on me and— What would you say? What would you do? If I was to say, I'd wait here for you, would you cast me away, or say that we're through? Cause I'm not giving up," he swears, "giving up on me and you, no! I won't be giving up, giving up on me and you. That's the last thing that I'd ever do."

That's all. A few extra notes and it's over, fading into silence which is quickly replaced by a thunderous reaction, the whole room having felt what he put into that performance. And you're still standing frozen, filled with something you can't even begin to describe, watching him like you'll die if you look away.

The show's not over, it's still going on, but how can it be when time just stopped? How can everyone just go on as if that didn't just happen? Eridan is singing again, what seems to be another emotional number, but you can't hear it. You need to breathe. You need air. You turn your back on the stage and slip off through the throngs of sweaty fans, exit the room, the building. Push your way into the freedom outside, look up at the starless night sky.

Breathe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eridan: Load the van.

At least it’s a beautiful night, you think, staring glumly at the two amps sitting in front of the open van. For once, everyone had pitched in to put all the shit away, except that they all seemed to think since there were so many people helping, they could all just put in one or two things and then walk off. None of them seemed to notice that there were two rather large amps left and just one guy.

Still, you’re fairly strong, right? You’ve done this plenty of times. You can handle two silly little amps. Or so you think, as you bend down and lift one up. But you clearly overestimated your strength, and you nearly go toppling over, nearly drop the expensive equipment. Thankfully, someone grabs it from the other end and steadies you, balancing it out. You can’t see who it is because the amp is blocking your view, but you don’t really care, you’re just grateful that some asshole came back.

They help you carry it into the van and put it down, and you look up to thank them but then your heart stops.

Sollux is watching you with half a smile. “Hey, ED,” he says.

You nod slowly. “Hey, Sol.”

Without a word, the two of you retrieve the second amp, bring it inside, shut the doors to the trailer. Your hands linger on the side of the vehicle, body still facing it, and you can’t turn around, you can’t face him. Scenarios play over and over in your mind, scenarios of him rejecting you, telling you the same thing Feferi told you all those months ago. That song was a mistake. What were you thinking.

“Eridan.”

Something in the way he says your name makes you turn around and meet his eyes. You watch him, trying to figure out what’s going on in that beautiful head of his, but as always he is indecipherable.

“That song,” he says quietly, and you brace yourself, waiting for the rejection. “Did you mean it?”

Not what you expected, but it could still be a lead up to something bad. You honestly don’t know what to feel right now. But you blink, nod. “Every word.”

He stares at you for what seems to be the longest moment of your entire life. You’re positive that he can hear how loudly your heart is beating right now.

And suddenly his hands are on your cheeks, and he’s kissing you. He’s kissing you. And it is nothing like the first time you kissed, or the second time, or the third. It isn’t hard or rough or greedy. It is the softest, sweetest kiss you could possibly imagine.

It’s over far too soon as he pulls back just slightly, rests his forehead against yours. His hands never leave your face. Even through two pairs of glasses, you can see the smile in his eyes.

“And I meant that,” he promises. Suddenly you want to cry, but not in the way you’d expected. You break eye contact, looking down, and he makes a small noise of concern.

“Eridan, you’re shaking.”

But you don’t know how to answer him, don’t know how to tell him that you never expected this, that you’d never imagined he’d want you too.

So he tilts your head up and kisses you again, the most tender brush of lips, and you melt into it, your arms circling around his back so you can hold yourself steady and press into him, and it feels like there are sparks shooting through your entire body. A shiver runs down your spine, and you break apart, bury your face in his neck, still shaking.

“I’m sorry,” you murmur against his skin.

“For what?” he laughs, and you can feel him shaking his head. “I’m the one who should be apologizing to you. I’m the one who messed everything up.”

You pull back and meet his eyes again, just stare at him, trying to comprehend the way he’s looking at you right now, the way you’ve always wanted him to.

“We both messed up,” you acknowledge. “But…I think we’re capable a’ fixin’ it.”

Slowly, he trails his hand down one of your arms, removes it from his back. His fingers find yours, intertwine. “You think so?”

You nod, never meaning anything more in your life. “I told you. I’m not givin’ up on me an’ you.”

And amazingly, wondrously…he smiles.

“Neither am I.”